The Moore American
DURANT — With a tourney titleon the line, Westmoore needed to be at its best. However, after lapses on the defensive end and at the free throw line the Jaguars fell Norman in overtime 60-58 in the finals of the the Durant Lions Classic championship Saturday.
“We played pretty good this weekend in Durant,” Westmoore coach Scott Hodges said. “We’ve really got to be more consistent on the defensive end. We had way too many breakdowns defensively and had to dig ourselves out of a hole way too much. Overall though I was pleased with our effort and I thought we really made improvement this weekend.”
Westmoore had a chance to keep it out of the extra period. But they missed the potential game-winner at the buzzer to send the contest into OT.
Norman trailed 54-52 with a little over three minutes left in overtime when senior Jay Finley began to take over.
It started innocuously when he hit one of two free throws, and things still looked bleak for NHS when Westmoore took a 57-53 lead with a minute left. On the other end, Finley answered with a midrange jumper. Then, after the Jags Dillion Thompson hit one of two free throws, Finley took his man off the dribble and calmly nailed a three-pointer to tie it with 26 seconds left. With both teams out of timeouts, Westmoore ran into a Tiger trap near midcourt and turned the ball over for the 13th time.
That set up Finley’s dramatic game winner, a running 15-footer along the baseline, that swished cleanly through the net as the clock ran out.
“I knew they couldn’t guard me off the dribble,” Finley said. “I was able to pull up and knock it down.”
Both teams made critical mistakes down the stretch. The Jaguars missed three of their last seven free throws and turned the ball over at the end of regulation and the overtime period, while the Tigers missed three short shots and turned it over once themselves.
“If we make free throws and don’t turn the ball over late, we have a really good chance of winning that game,” Hodges said. “We had a four point lead with a minute left; we’ve just got to do a better job of executing and finishing. We have to get Norman credit though; they made some big shots to win that game.”
Finley finished with 20 points, six rebounds and four assists while being named tournament MVP. Cooper Clark added 19 for the Tigers.
Trey Ayala had 19 points and five boards for Westmoore and Thompson added 19 as well. Both joined Tripp Fuller on the All Tournament team.
After a back-and-forth first half, NHS built a 10-point lead in the third quarter, only to see the Jags storm back as center Sam Blodgett was forced to sit much of the second half with foul trouble and fouled out midway through the fourth. His counterpart from Westmoore, Fuller, took advantage of his absence, scoring 13 points and eight rebounds before himself fouling out late in the game.
“The difference in the game was probably our lack of defensive effort in the first half,” Hodges said. “I was really proud of how we battled back after being down by 10 in the third quarter. We’ve got to start games out with a better focus and intensity at the defensive end.”
Westmoore faced Southmoore Tuesday and will head into Christmas vacation after facing Norman North Friday.
“It’s still really early in the season, so we just have to keep getting better,” Hodges said. “It will be good to get back to practice and work on some things. We know how tough our conference is, so we have to continue to work and improve. I still really like our team and we know our best basketball is ahead of us.