By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The Timberwolves stepped onto the floor with one of their best teams in years. They had a team that was capable of a state tournament run, and expected to make that dream a reality.
But it came crashing down in the final seconds, as Yukon hit a 3-pointer to steal a 49-46 win.
That was 2011, when Bri Kuestersteffen was a freshman playing up with the varsity. Three years later, it’s a game the senior leader remembers well, and one coach Jeff Blough reminded his team of before practice on Wednesday.
“That was a good team and we should have made state,” Kuestersteffen said the day before she’ll play what could be her final game in Norman North’s gym. “Coach brought that up to us this year. That was a good team, and we have a good team this year, but if we take it too lightly anything can happen.”
Kuestersteffen will do her best to make sure that doesn’t happen when North opens the playoffs at home with an 8 p.m. game tonight against Edmond North. It’s the third time in four years the T-Wolves have hosted regionals, and the team’s three seniors have played a key role in making that happen.
While Kuestersteffen headlines the group — as a two-sport star who leads the team in scoring, maintains a 4.0 grade-point average, has drawn national recognition, and will continue her soccer career at UAB next year — she’s not all there is to the class of 2014.
Julian Mougell has been an overpowering inside presence for the T-Wolves, fighting through injury this season to try and return to the state tournament. Blough described her as “one of the nicest people in our program” and said she’s been a key part to North’s success over the last two seasons. Summer Steadman is a role player on the team but has been vital to helping the T-Wolves get through practices in what has been an injury-filled season.
“I wish we could have had another year with Julian,” Blough said. “She’s made so much progress. It’s not often you get to have a 6-3 kid come off your bench. And Summer is a player who doesn’t get on the floor much but has stuck it out for four years here. She’s been a great practice player who’s helped make her team better.”
Both have left their mark on the program, but there’s no denying Kuestersteffen’s legacy. She’s the second-leading scorer in program history and has done it all for the T-Wolves, from being the team’s exclusive scorer two years ago to the facilitator role she’s assumed this season.
“When you talk about Bri, talk about a kid who’s tough as nails and has played all four years here,” Blough said. “She’s a true competitor, a 4.0 student and does community work all the time on top of that. In my opinion, she’s been the best player in this town. It’s a quiet leadership, but she’s a great leader. The other kids see how hard she plays even though she’s undersized. They see how hard she works and they look up to her.”
Kuestersteffen helped to lead the T-Wolves to the state tournament a year ago, and she plans to do the same in the next two weeks. And, for her, there’s no better place to start that run than at North.
“It’s going to be emotional, especially since I won’t play basketball in college,” she said. “It’s going to be my last games at North, and it’s wonderful to host. It’s been a great journey, and the coaches and other players are to thank for that. I almost can’t believe it’s already here.”
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