NORMAN — It was billed as a contest between an experienced and battle-tested Norman North squad on one side, and a young Norman High team going into the fourth-ranked Timberwolves’ gym for the toughest game of the season so far.
As the game progressed, the Tigers — who played five freshmen — proved that age is just a number. They came out unafraid and stormed back from an early deficit to pull within one shot of the Timberwolves for most of the fourth quarter.
But the Timberwolves proved that experience does matter, and that they know how to close out games. While NHS missed six of its last 10 free throws with a chance to tie the game or take the lead, the Timberwolves made enough to pull away for a 41-33 victory.
“After we got up, we relaxed way too much and fouled too much, and that allows people to get back in the game,” North coach Jeff Blough said. “But even when they got it to three, there was no panic. They said, ‘we’ve been in this situation before, we know what to do.’”
That comfort manifested itself at the free throw line, where the T-Wolves made nine of their 15 shots. At the other end, NHS made just 12 of its 23 but missed its last five free throws to allow the T-Wolves to ice the game.
One of those T-Wolves who was essential down the stretch was sophomore Alexa Scott, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds.
“Having done this last year, my nerves weren’t as bad this year,” she said. “When they cut it to three, even though it was a one-shot game we knew if we could be patient and run our offense we would get what we wanted. We kept our composure and it paid off in the end.”
North (2-1) took control early, taking advantage of stifling defensive pressure to jump out to a 12-3 lead after a sloppy first quarter in which both teams combined for 10 turnovers. The T-Wolves did so largely by dominating the boards. The Tigers’ first rebound didn’t come until seven minutes into the game, and North finished the game with 30 rebounds to NHS’ 21.
NHS walked out of North with a loss, but the Tigers took the No. 4 team in the state to the final minute, and coach Nichole Copeland was proud of how far her young team handled its biggest stage yet.
“I’m proud of the team and the way they represented Norman High,” she said. “We knew coming in that position-for-position they were more talented than us, and we just wanted to keep it close late in the game and see what could happen. And we did that. They were very mentally attuned to the game. We didn’t let the extracurricular stuff effect us the way it has in the past. This team is getting better every time we step on the court.”
NHS’ Taylor Ely led all scorers with 15 points, while freshman Bethany Franks added 10 points and six rebound for NHS. Bri Kuestersteffen and Haley Woodard led North with 10 points apiece.
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