By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Pick a storyline to follow and remember you heard it here first.
Nichole Copeland’s Norman High girls program is turning the corner and what it did Friday night at Norman North may have been more impressive than what it did Tuesday night against Edmond Memorial.
The Tigers didn’t take the Timberwolves to overtime as they did the Bulldogs, but if they hit their layups and free throws the first 31⁄2 quarters, it would have been North fouling NHS at the end of the game, trying to create possessions, trying to come back in the end.
Alas, it wasn’t.
That one ended 41-33.
But it was 30-27 for a couple minutes in the fourth quarter and 34-31 nearer the end and 36-31 when the Tigers missed four straight free throws. And nobody’s younger than Copeland’s Tigers.
Also, mark it down, the NHS boys are going to catch some teams by surprise. What they’re missing is a whole lot of top-line talent, but what they have is the deepest team you’ve ever seen a notch below that line. Really, the NHS boys could go win a Class 4A state championship right now.
They lost 65-43 and the game seemed more competitive than that, only it wasn’t because, well, it just wasn’t. Because the city’s best team is the North boys and it’s not that close.
We’ll get back to that.
The North girls probably go back to the state tournament.
The coaches, who rank them No. 4, seem to think so and the same group that made them competitive back when they were all kids two years ago — Bri Kuestersteffen, Haley Woodard, Paige Canty, Tia Williams, Julian Mougell — remain the heart of the team. And maybe this time they get out of the first round because, if you look at them, they don’t look like kids any more.
Still, it’s the North boys.
The best player in town is Marcus Dickinson and if it’s close it’s because Lindy Waters, his teammate, is right there with him.
When they’re done it’s going to feel like they’ve been together for six or seven years, not four, because already they play more like seniors than sophomores.
No less than the guy who coached them last season, Butch Roberts, believes Dickinson is right there with Oklahoma’s Jordan Woodward, and Roberts swears he’s not trying to knock the freshman Sooner guard, who’s already given coach Lon Kruger’s team a big lift.
Also, for the record — because Roberts was asked if he was on the record — he believes Waters might join Dickinson in the Big 12 when it’s time to pick a college. He thinks Dickinson’s plainly that good and he thinks Waters might well be that good.
What was noticeable Friday night was the fact Dickinson’s turned himself into a pretty good 3-point shooter, which hardly seems fair, and that Waters is the best rebounding guard the sports editor of this newspaper has seen since arriving in March of 1997.
The dynamic duo’s terrific, but the T-Wolves are a fantastic whole when they’re all playing hard.
Payton Prince finished with 14 points and six rebounds and, more importantly, played like he had a chip on his shoulder, which makes him a different guy. And as long as Kairo Rutledge is on the court it just seems like North gets every rebound.
Anyway, it’s time to quit looking at the T-Wolves as this nice young team. It’s time to think of them differently. Nobody should think of them as a No. 11 squad, where the Class 6A coaches continue to rank them, but as a top-five force instead.
That means a new set of expectations. That means thinking big. It may not be a picnic, but North has earned it. It’s the price of possibility.
Also, it’s time to look at the schedule.
The McGuinness tournament arrives Jan. 9. Why not go win it?
Midwest City visits Jan. 17 and the gym should be full because whether you’re a North fan or not, it’s a game you want to see. Four days later and the Tigers are at Edmond Memorial, the third-ranked squad the T-Wolves didn’t quite catch at the buzzer opening night.
They’re the team.
A big deal.
It’s time to start looking at them that way.
Follow me @clayhorning
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