NORMAN — If chemistry and being a good kid were everything, Oklahoma women’s basketball would have been to more than three Final Fours, that Norman High basketball team of Connor Madole, Will Saxon, Nate Long and Jacques Murray would not only have reached the state tournament but won it and, probably, this year’s Sooners wouldn’t have lost to Kansas State and Notre Dame.
Being chalked full of intangibles is not a fix-all. You can’t take it to the bank. On the other hand, it sure does help.
You can lose big with it, maybe, but you’ll almost never win big without it.
Consider that when you consider Norman North, at Tulsa Union on Friday night to meet Owasso in the first Class 6A state semifinal football game this town has seen since one high school became two.
The Timberwolves aren’t satisfied and still won’t be if and when they take down the Rams. But they have already won big.
Last Friday, they eliminated the University of Broken Arrow, the last two words of which will never have a North, South, East or West attached, at least not until that district smugly reaches 10,000 high school students (for which it is almost halfway there).
This Friday, North can go from winning big to winning bigger, from making history to making more of it.
The right group of guys are the ones making it happen.
“They’re absolutely an incredible group,” second-year North coach Wade Standley said. “I’ve never had a group like these young men, ever. And that encompasses a lot of things. Not only on the field, but character and heart and effort and attitude and all those things that you talk about as a coach.”
There are drawbacks.
They might not be the best quote, and when they talk about themselves they tend to sound like each other. And still, the thing about that? The more they win the more, together, they come out of their shell.
“It’s like a movie,” senior linebacker Beau Proctor said. “We’re hearing it in school. We have an assembly every single week. We hear in school over the intercom that charter busses are coming, how many kids are going to go, sign up in the office. You walk down the hallways and you see kids lined up in the whole hallway, just trying to get on a bus to come to the game to watch us.”
Bad kids don’t get their chums, the chums of their chums, and a bunch of other students they might hardly know to pile into busses to go see them play 127 miles away.
Bad kids don’t seem to understand it isn’t all about them. The T-Wolves know they’re not alone.
“I think they’re a really special group of guys and they really make all the trainers feel like they’re part of the family,” said Brooke Wasoski, a North junior, and one of those trainers who puts in pretty much the same hours as the players, helping to keep them on the field. “They’re good kids.”
Bad kids, even should they luck into receiving support, aren’t affected in return by that support. The T-Wolves are.
“Having the whole student body out there is like our fuel just to take care of business,” senior nose guard Justin Martin said. “Last Friday, we were like, ‘Wow, look at that.’
It’s huge having a quarterback like Peyton Gavras, who has grown up before our eyes, and a running game, created at mid-season, to support Gavras and a gaggle of fine receivers, and a defense that’s not only good, but has a flair for the dramatic, as it did against Broken Arrow to put the game a way, and a playmaker like Jordan Evans, who’s taken the state by storm.
Those things can take any team a very long way. But if the players don’t get along, if they have an eye for trouble and fail to appreciate their good fortune, that team is bound to finish short.
North can’t finish short.
It can only keep going.
“We truly believe we’re all brothers here. We have each others back,” Proctor said. “If anybody needs anything, we come together and get it done.”
Be around enough teams and you might hear that a lot. But they won’t always mean it.
North means it.
Clay HorningFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org