NORMAN — Norman North was ecstatic to host the regional tournament. It meant that the team’s three seniors would get another pair of games at home as they try to make a return trip to the state tournament.
And the Timberwolves made it a homestand to remember.
Seventh-ranked North put away No. 10 Lawton Eisenhower 55-48 to win their second regional title in two years, doing it Saturday with a combination of stifling defense and savvy game management.
“It’s bittersweet, but this is a great way to end my last year here,” senior Bri Kuestersteffen said as she clutched the regional championship plaque. “I wouldn’t want it to end any other way.”
Lawton Eisenhower featured an imposing inside power in Crystal Polk, who finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. But while Polk stuffed the stat sheet and forced North into early foul trouble, but the T-Wolves responded like the veteran team they are. Forced to play long stretches without leading scorer Kuestersteffen and defensive ace Sam Landreth, the T-Wolves pulled the ball out to the perimeter and shortened the game, preserving the single-digit lead they built in the first half.
“Aspen Knight did a good job off the bench after Sam got in foul trouble,” coach Jeff Blough said. “We also got good minutes from Julian Mougell.”
The Timberwolves started hot, building a 27-20 lead in the second quarter. But that lead was threatened in the third quarter when Kuestersteffen and Landreth were both forced to sit out with three fouls. That was when Haley Woodard took her cue, taking over the offense and scoring the next several baskets for North, including an and-one that pushed the lead back to seven points.
The biggest difference between this year’s T-Wolves team and last year’s that was bounced in the quarterfinals of the state tournament is a better balance, and that was apparent on Saturday even though North is playing without an injured Tia Williams. North got five second-half points from Mougell and nine points from Alexa Scott to go along with her nine rebounds.