By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Eighth-ranked Norman North was dealt some harsh news this week. Senior center Julian Mougell, the Timberwolves’ sixth man and shot-blocking threat, is likely out for the rest of the season with torn ligaments in her ankle.
It’s an injury that is expected to sideline Mougell for six weeks, opening the door for a possible return in the state tournament should the T-Wolves make it that far, though there’s no guarantee she would be able to take the floor then even if North makes it there.
With Mougell out, the T-Wolves are hamstrung inside. While Alexa Scott is a skilled center, the lack of depth at the position leaves North in a situation where it’s forced to go with small lineups and move junior Haley Woodard to the four position, rather than her natural spot at the three, or small forward.
“We’ll miss her inside and her ability to rebound,” coach Jeff Blough said. “We have to go with a small lineup more often.”
Bri Kuestersteffen and Sam Landreth are also out for North. Neither will play tonight against Del City, though both hope to return next week.
Tigers picking up steam: The narrative for Norman High all season has been that the Tigers would steadily improve as the season went on and the three freshmen they start would begin to figure things out.
In the past week, the Tigers have begun to see some of those goals realized. They’re 3-1 in their last four games, with the only loss coming to No. 6 Bartlesville. Included in that stretch are wins over No. 15 Putnam City, Class 5A’s No. 14 Del City and Class 2A’s top-ranked Millwood.
More importantly, the Tigers have for the most part managed the end of those games well. Several of those contests were one-possession games in the final minute, and the Tigers found a way to win.
The Tigers have several winnable games on tap, and a chance to make a statement when they travel to No. 14 Edmond Memorial next Friday.
North boys returning to full strength: The other squad at North is the ninth-ranked boys team. After winning the Shawnee tournament without Payton Prince, who was on a recruiting trip, the T-Wolves are entering the stretch run of the season closer to full strength.
Malcolm Carter and Kairo Rutledge also missed time for North, but were able to return during the tournament for the T-Wolves as they played at a level that coach Bryan Merritt said is near the best he’s seen all season. The one player still missing is Najji Brown, who injured his knee in practice two weeks ago and still hasn’t made his way back to the lineup. The timeline for his return isn’t clear.
Even without Brown, the T-Wolves are in a better position than they were a week ago, and are focused on the final month of the season.
“We’re trying to make that late-season push,” Merritt said. “We’ve talked about finishing strong in that last 10 games, and the Shawnee tournament was the first three of those. We want to be playing our best basketball near the end, and I’m pretty happy with where we’re at. Four of our last seven games are home games, and we hope people come out to support the team.”
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