By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — With Norman North’s state quarterfinals exit for the second year in a row, it’s easy to focus on what the Timberwolves are losing. Gone will be a trio of seniors including Bri Kuestersteffen, the team’s leading scorer for the past several years and one of the most tenacious players in the state at any level. She was the unquestioned go-to player on the squad and a major reason they have made the trip to the state tournament in Skiatook the past two seasons.
But the Timberwolves also will return four starters from this year’s team.
“The program is on solid footing,” coach Jeff Blough said Thursday after North’s 10-point loss to undefeated No. 1 Broken Arrow, which will play for the state title tonight. “We’ve got a lot of great talent coming back next year. The future is bright.”
A program that’s hosted regionals and advanced to state for the past two seasons will lose just two rotation players next year, and will enter the season with a talented and experienced core of seniors.
That includes Haley Woodard, who this season moved from an explosive athlete to a legitimate top-tier scorer in Class 6A. Joining her from this year’s starting lineup will be Paige Canty, Sam Landreth and Alexa Scott, while Tia Williams, who saw as many minutes as most of the starters, will be back as well. It’s an athletic group that will rely on Scott inside but has enough guards to press the ball when it needs to and will continue to play the stifling defense that North relied on this season as it weathered a rash of injuries.
The Timberwolves showed this season that more than Kuestersteffen could score the ball. While she carried most of the load in her junior year, this season the effort was much more balanced, and the T-Wolves had contributions from all five starters and several bench players, all of whom figure to improve even more next year.
Add in a freshman group that went 15-1 and features Crymson Rose, a guard who saw minutes for the varsity this season, and North’s program looks to be in a position to rebound from losing this year’s talented seniors.
Next year’s squad will be senior-laden, with Canty, Landreth, Williams and sub Aspen Knight all playing their final season. It will be a group that has five players who have made multiple state-tournament appearances.
“I expect to be back here next year,” Blough said. “I’m so proud of our players and coaches for building the program to where we are.”
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