By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
YUKON — Norman North refused to lose.
In the first half, when Putnam City’s zone frustrated the Timberwolves, North persevered. In the third quarter when North was forced to sit several players with foul trouble, Bri Kuestersteffen scored eight straight points. With under a minute left and Putnam City up a point, Haley Woodard ran down the ball handler and stole the ball, drawing the foul and putting North back on top with a pair of free throws.
And at the end, when freshman Crymson Rose stepped to the line having not scored a point in the game, she too refused to lose, calmly sinking both free throws to ensure the Timberwolves the 54-50 victory.
And with it, a return trip to the state tournament.
“It feels great,” said Kuestersteffen, who led all scorers with 20 points and added six rebounds as well. “At the beginning of this journey I think we thought we would make state because we were there last year. But we really earned our way there.”
Thanks in large part to her. On Saturday, the senior took over the game at times, including carrying North through a third quarter in which starters Paige Canty, Alexa Scott and Sam Landreth spent most of their time on the bench with foul trouble.
The other key to the win was Woodard, who wreaked havoc on defense and came up with the biggest steal of the game with 30 seconds left when Putnam City led by a point. After the Pirates inbounded the ball and brought it past halfcourt, Woodard — a state champion in track who is playing with a strained hamstring — closed the distance immediately and came from behind to steal the ball and draw a foul. Her pair of free throws put North back on top for good.
The duo carried a North team that looked listless at times against Putnam City’s zone. The T-Wolves built a 13-6 lead in the first quarter but watched the Pirates storm back as they struggled to find open shots against the zone. Putnam City first took the lead late in the first half and traded it back and forth with North for most of the second half.
“We had a gameplan for the zone, but when they first jumped in it we freaked out a little bit,” Kuestersteffen said. “But once when we did adjust to it we did a lot better. Haley and I both knew what we had to do to win and we tried to step up for our team. We really wanted to win and didn’t want it to be our last game together.”
Thanks to their efforts, it won’t be. North advances to the Class 6A state tournament for the second straight year and will open the tournament on Thursday at Oral Roberts University, most likely against the state’s No. 1 team in Broken Arrow.
“It’s extra special to be here with this group with all of the injuries we’ve had this season,” coach Jeff Blough said of his team, which hasn’t played a game with a full roster in months and will enter the season’s final weekend with several players either hurt or out entirely. “It’s a blessing to be here and have some more time with these seniors.”
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