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.