NORMAN — Norman North entered Friday night’s showdown with No. 7 Edmond Memorial looking for one thing.
And, after a hard-fought 45-37 upset win in which North held Memorial scoreless for more than seven minutes in the fourth quarter, the Timberwolves have earned it.
“This was so huge for us to get some respect,” Haley Woodard said after the game. “Beating them is a big step for us. We know we have work to do, but this gives us some momentum to keep playing hard and stay focused.”
A physical game from the start, Friday’s affair wasn’t decided until the fourth quarter, when North’s defense took over the game and gave the T-Wolves a signature victory, the only thing missing from their 8-1 start to the season.
The two squads were neck and neck from the opening tip, with the lead changing hands numerous times in the first half as both teams started slowly. Between two packed-in defenses and a combined 16 fouls, the pace slowed to a crawl and energy remained low as Memorial held onto a 21-20 lead at the break.
“Both teams came out flat,” North coach Jeff Blough said. “It was kind of a weird game that way. But we came out in the second half and played better.”
That they did. After briefly falling behind by four points in the third quarter, the Timberwolves finally began to find their rhythm. Bri Kuestersteffen hit a big three to keep the lead from widening, and North fought back to tie it at 33 with a minute left in the quarter.
If Kuestersteffen’s bucket got North back into the game, it was the next possession that altered the course of the contest. With Memorial trying to hold the ball for a final shot, North sophomore Tia Williams was able to get a hand into the passing lane and tip the ball into the backcourt. She then out-hustled everyone into the backcourt and dove on the loose ball, corralling it long enough for Blough to call a timeout. Kuestersteffen found Julian Mougell for a basket in the paint on the following possession, and North took a 35-33 lead into the fourth.
And with that spark, the Timberwolves played what may have been their best defensive stretch of the season in the deciding quarter. They forced Memorial into long threes and kept the Bulldogs off the boards. Despite their own struggles on the offensive end, the lockdown effort allowed the T-Wolves to build a 39-33 lead and ice it with free throws down the stretch.
“Hopefully this gives us a level of respect,” Blough said. “Neither team played particularly well tonight, but we did a good job in the second half defensively in our zone. This is another conference win for us and it’s a good win going into next week.”
Corbin HoslerFollow me @Chosler88chosler@normantranscript.com