SKIATOOK — Tia Williams, one of many Timberwolves still misty-eyed about 25 minutes after it was over and after she and her teammates had disbanded into the bleachers seeking solace from family and friends, explained it very well and you had to like what she had to say on a couple of counts.
One, she proved to have a keen grasp of the obvious, an underrated and appreciated virtue from anybody. Two, she expressed it.
“They just didn’t get our best shot,” she said. “It was not our basketball. We did not play well.”
She might have added “or anything close to good basketball,” but why pile on your own team? Anyway, she’d made her point and, because we can trust her, she’s not the only one who understood what happened Thursday afternoon against Union.
Her teammates did, too.
The Redskins prevailed 44-40 and they, not the T-Wolves, will be up bright and early at the Mabee Center today, continuing their Class 6A state tournament run. And while that’s good for them, it may be better for the T-Wolves, just not right now.
“When we come back to practice next year,” Williams said, “we need to know we don’t want to feel like this again.”
That’s the lesson.
That’s what good can come from a particularly bad day for coach Jeff Blough’s basketball team.
The T-Wolves weren’t sharp, weren’t urgent, weren’t, really, fully engaged until about 5 minutes remained and they trailed by 14 points.
Part of it was a Redskin zone defense that brought very little pressure but offered fewer cracks. North’s most basic response was to stand around wondering what it might to do against it.
It took desperation for the T-Wolves to come out of their funk long enough to go from 34-20 to 42-38 with Paige Canty at the free throw line hoping to make it a two-point game with 23 seconds remaining.
That North trailed by 14 so late was an indictment of its ineffectiveness. That after the entire gym had given up on the game North nonetheless threatened to pull within a single possession is a tribute to the T-Wolves’ possibilities.
Because almost everybody comes back. Indeed, if North doesn’t find itself back at the 2014 state tourney something will be very wrong.
Freshman Alexa Scott, who finished with 10 points and four rebounds, said nobody expected North to get this far this season. Maybe so, maybe not, but what she said next is not debatable.
“I think that’s motivation to push us harder next season,” she said. “And not just to get back, but to win it all.”
Who knows if a state title’s out there for this team. On the other hand, sentiments like Scott’s are a big part of the battle.
Also, it doesn’t hurt that North’s vast potential has only been partially tapped.
The T-Wolves boast several fine athletes willing to play hard and for each other and buy into the program. This season, they took care of the ball, played fine defense and found themselves in the state tournament.
But Thursday’s lack of urgency wasn’t so unfamiliar. Patience has been a virtue for the T-Wolves this season, but too much of it was part of Thursday’s problem.
And, even as it seems like North’s been a young team forever, it remains the truth, leaving a rawness to the T-Wolves’ game they may eventually outgrow.
Still, North was quite good.
Kuestersteffen came on late with 11 fourth-quarter points to finish with 14, hitting a couple NBA 3s during the comeback. The T-Wolves beat the Redskins on the boards, which is something. And they put down a template for 27 minutes, so clear, they’ll know never to follow it again.
“There are peaks and valleys in games and, unfortunately for us,” Scott said, “there were a lot more valleys.”
They’ll be back.
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