By Michael Kinney
The Moore American
It wasn't pretty, but it may be the type of game Southmoore needed. After cruising to a couple of easy victories in recent weeks, the fourth-ranked Lady SaberCats had to grind out a 55-46 win over No. 8 Norman North Tuesday at NNH.
"I don't think we played great as individuals," Southmoore coach Britney Kannady-Sayes said. "But as a team we played great enough to beat an excellent team on their home court."
The SaberCats led for most of the night and looked like they were on the verge of blowing the Timberwolves off the court in the third period. When North's Haley Woodard was called for a technical foul after shoving Southmoore's Kayla Tucker to the floor, NNH was on the verge of getting out of hand.
However, after a small break on the bench, Woodard reentered the contest and led the Timberwolves on a spirited comeback that trimmed a 12 point lead down to 41-35 heading into the fourth quarter.
"I think we stopped hitting some shots," Kannady-Sayes said. "We had some fouls on us and we had to sub a little bit. We let that mentally get in our heads."
It got tougher for the Cats when sophomore Kyeriah Hannah fouled out with 7:10 left in the contest.
But the rest of the Southmoore squad responded as they have all year. With its defense. The Cats returned to full court pressure, which helped force 19 turnovers on the night.
The closest the T-Wolves got the rest of the way was seven points. Tucker, Kyra Gilbert and Serethia Hawkins each came up with clutch shots down the stretch to close out the game.
"I think we played pretty good," Southmoore's Cydni Campbell said. "We played hard. We withstood the run. They had a run on us and we held it together. We didn't let them get in our heads. But we stayed cool the whole time."
Tucker and Gilbert both went for 18 points, the former hitting 4 of 5 3-point attempts and the latter hitting 5 of 10 from the field and 7 of 10 from the free-throw line. Serethia Hawkins was held to 7 points, but was a factor on defense and on the boards.
Bri Kuestersteffen paced the T-Wolves with 17. Woodard added 13 in the loss.
Southmoore (19-3) has one game left in the regular season when it host Edmond Memorial Friday. It has a chance to complete its the year undefeated at home, undefeated in conference play and undefeated outside of tournament play.
“They’ve got bigs, they’ve got guards, I just think they’re as talented as any team in the state,” North coach Jeff Blough said. “I think it’s between them and Edmond Santa Fe.”
If the Cats are able to make a run a state title, it will be because it knows how to win games when they are not at their best.
"I think its a great thing," Kannady-Sayes said. "It's exactly the type of games you want to play. All you are going to learn from them whether you win or lose. You are going to fix mistakes, see where your weaknesses are, bring them back to practice to improve upon them when you do play tough teams in the playoffs."
Westmoore boys 69, Norman 66
Norman High and Westmoore met for the third time this season on Tuesday night. And after an overtime classic won by NHS on a Jay Finley buzzer-beater in the first meeting and a narrow Westmoore victory in the second, the hundreds of fans who turned out for the rubber match expected something special.
They didn’t leave disappointed.
Westmoore won in a back-and-forth game that played out more like a playoff game than a near-meaningless contest in the final week of the regular season.
The Jag’s Tripp Fuller was Tuesday’s hero, despite Finley’s best attempts at rekindling the magic from the Tigers’ overtime win over Westmoore in the championship game of the Durant Classic. And, after Finley hit a deep three with 30 seconds left to tie at 66, it looked like he might well do that.
But Fuller, who finished with 26 points and seven rebounds, backed down two Tiger defenders and hit an off-balance layup while getting fouled to put Westmoore on top with 3 seconds remaining. After Fuller sank the free throw, Finley was left to try a halfcourt 3-pointer that hit the backboard and rolled out of the rim.
Westmoore girls 59, Norman High 39: The Jaguars exploited its size advantage inside, attacking the lane and using its post players to dominate the paint. The Westmoore blocked four shots and forced NHS into 13 turnovers.
The Tigers received a boost from sophomore Channah Cox, who entered the starting lineup and recorded five points and five rebounds
Eight players got on the board for the Jags, with Sydney Chastain leading the way with 12. Taylor Ely led NHS with 12 points. Albany Anderson added 11 and six rebounds.
Norman North boys 76, Southmoore 52— The Timberwolves jumped out to a 33-22 first half lead and never looked back.
Darius Hodge led the SaberCats with 12 points.