NORMAN — There’s no shortage of history between Norman North and Edmond Memorial. The two squads have squared off three times this season, and while North has won each meeting, every game has been close and hard-fought.
In some cases, maybe even too hard-fought, as an errant fist by Edmond Memorial’s Andee Decker at the end of the game overshadowed the eighth-ranked Timberwolves’ 48-39 victory in the semifinals of the East Central Tournament on Jan. 11.
And, while North coach Jeff Blough described that incident as “water under the bridge,” there’s no denying that the tension will be thick when the schools meet for an 8 p.m. showdown today at Harrah with a trip to the Class 6A state tournament on the line. North (18-7) won the three meetings this year over Edmond Memorial (15-8) by an average of less than seven points. The last contest, a 31-28 Feb. 8 North victory on the Bulldogs’ home court, was back and forth until North pulled out the win in the final minute.
“It was a physical win at their place, and I expect this will be similar,” Blough said. “They’re always a tough team to play against.”
Edmond Memorial was tabbed by some as a preseason title favorite, but struggled to a 5-4 start while regrouping around a young core that includes sophomores Decker and Jenny Roy. Both had siblings who graduated after leading the Bulldogs to the Class 6A championship game a year ago, and are the linchpins of a talented but inexperienced group.
Both teams enter the area tournament on three-game win streaks. North defeated Lawton as well as cross-town rival Norman High twice in the last two weeks, including a 43-33 win in the regional championship. Memorial scored an impressive win over Midwest City in the regular-season finale and had the largest upset of the postseason, upending No. 4 Southmoore 46-41 on Saturday.
It’s a fortunate turn of events for the Timberwolves, who dropped both games against Southmoore (20-4) this season but has yet to lose to Edmond Memorial. The victor advances to state while the loser will face the winner of Choctaw-Eisenhower for a second shot at making the field of eight.
“We’re familiar with Edmond Memorial, and we know what each other like to do,” North junior Bri Kuestersteffen said. “It doesn’t matter that we’ve beat them three times this year. They’re a good team, and it will be about who comes out, plays the hardest and makes the most shots.”
With a win, North will advance to its first state tournament since 2010 and will do so with just one senior on the roster.
“I guess we’re further ahead of schedule than I thought,” Blough said. “To be in this position with as young as we are says a lot about where this program is going.”
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