By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Norman High endured one of the worst starts imaginable in Tuesday’s Crosstown Clash. The Tigers fell behind 9-0 in the first four minutes and didn’t hit a field goal until the closing buzzer of the first quarter.
It was a nightmare start at home, but one that NHS fought through before storming back to take Norman North down to the wire.
But that was when the Timberwolves took over. They scored 16 straight points in the final five minutes to earn the 48-32 win and sweep the season series.
NHS closed the gap to eight at halftime and five after three before pulling to 32-30 with five minutes to play. But that was as close as the Tigers would get. North responded by holding NHS scoreless for the next four minutes as the T-Wolves went on a 16-2 run to close the game.
“It’s a maturation process,” North coach Jeff Blough said. “Last year maybe we not have responded like we did tonight. There was no panic. It was a good team win. In a rivalry game in this environment I’ll take it.”
Starting three freshmen against an experienced North squad that advanced to the state tournament a year ago, the Tigers came out like they were feeling the pressure. They turned the ball over four times in the first four minutes and didn’t get on the board until the 3:30 mark of the first quarter when senior Taylor Ely hit a pair of free throws.
Taking advantage, North built a 16-7 first-quarter lead behind a balanced attack. It was a lead the T-Wolves would need over the next two quarters, as Ely began hitting threes and NHS freshman Bethany Franks found success inside.
The duo combined for all but three of NHS’ points and kept the Timberwolves’ defense off guard. Ely finished with 17 points while Franks had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
“Taylor was the only one who really came out ready to play tonight,” Tigers coach Nichole Copeland said. “She was focused from the tip, and she tried to bring her teammates along with her. Bethany responded in the second half, but we didn’t handle the pressure well physically or mentally. They came out and punched us in the mouth and we didn’t respond.”
North had seven players score in the game and three score in double digits. One of those was Tia Williams, who carried North through a crucial part of the game.
With NHS threatening to take the lead in the third quarter, Williams scored nine straight for North. It was the only points the T-Wolves would score in the quarter, and it was a vital bridge for North while Haley Woodard sat out with foul trouble and the Tigers focused their defense on Bri Kuestersteffen.
“My mindset when I come in is to just keep playing hard and extend the lead,” she said. “It was a really great experience to come over here and win this game. It’s been something we’ve been looking toward for weeks. It’s obviously a big game for us, but we don’t base our season on it.”
The Timberwolves hope to have plenty more big games this season. Regional pairings are released tomorrow, and they hope to host their own regional for the second straight year.
“In the next few games we just have to keep getting better as a team,” Blough said. “It’s more time to rehab and to get some of our younger kids going.”
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