By Michael Kinney
The Moore American
MOORE — The Southmoore girls basketball team will host its first ever regional tournament this year, according to the OSSAA playoff brackets, which were released Thursday.
The fourth-ranked SaberCats (17-3) have only three losses on the season and have yet to lose a game at home. They will play Putnam City West in the opening round at 8 p.m. Feb. 21. If they win, they will play the winner of the Edmond Memorial and Yukon matchup. Both teams in the regional championship advance to the area tournament.
The Lady SaberCats are the only team from Moore that will host a regional. The Westmoore girls take on Putnam City at PCO in the opening round while Moore plays Muskogee at the Roughers’ home court. Both games are at 8 p.m.
On the boys side, Moore travels to Owasso to take on B.T. Washington at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 22. If the Lions win, they will face the winner of the Owasso and Sand Springs.
“I’m an old school guy,” Howell said. “Whoever we got, let’s go. Just do the best we can. Ofcourse we are going to prepare for them. Let’s just go play whoever it is.”
Southmoore will face Eisenhower in Lawton while Westmoore takes on PC North at Midwest City.
Other area teams
After a 14-6 start and a No. 8 ranking, the Norman North girls will host the first round of the playoffs.
North will host Lawton (4-13) at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, with the game coming immediately after Norman High (8-12) plays Midwest City (12-8). The loser in each game will be eliminated, while the winners will play at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Both teams will advance to the area tournament the following weekend, with the winner of that game facing an easier path to the state tournament.
On the boys’ side, NHS (8-12) will travel to face No. 10 Edmond North (12-8) for a 6:30 p.m. game Feb. 22 at Edmond Memorial, while North (9-11) will face Putnam City West (10-9) at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 22 at Putnam City.
The brackets create several intriguing storylines, the first being a possible Clash in the second round if both the NHS and North girls win.
North won the first meeting between the two teams on Dec. 20 and they are scheduled to close out the regular season with a rematch on Friday.
If both favored teams win, it creates a North-Midwest City rematch after the two squads have played two down-to-the-wire games this season, with Midwest City winning both narrowly and one in overtime.
For the boys, North enters a game with Putnam City West that is essentially a toss-up. The teams have similar records and have both earned impressive victories this season, with North beating Class 5A top-five teams Del City and Carl Albert. Putnam City West owns victories over Edmond North and Edmond Santa Fe. The Patriots also have overtime losses to top-ranked Midwest City and No. 3 Putnam City.
With pairings now set, North coach Butch Roberts is now more focused on consistent improvement than any specific game.
“Right now, it’s about getting better every day and being better next week than we are this week,” he said.
It’s a similar story at NHS, where coach Matt Thornton is trying to get a team in flux to coalesce in the final two weeks of the regular season. The Tigers are incorporating Jay Finley back into the offense after playing without him for more than a month.
It’s a work in progress that is beginning to bear fruit. Finley finished with 13 points in Tuesday’s loss to Edmond Memorial, his best performance since returning almost two weeks ago.
“Jay seemed to feel more comfortable tonight than he has,” Thornton said after Tuesday’s contest. “That’s one step closer to where we want to be. We’re still working to become more consistent.”