NORMAN — For the first time in recent memory the Crosstown Clash was more about the role players than it was the stars.
Norman North’s Bri Kuestersteffen and Norman High’s Taylor Ely both had good games in Friday’s down-to-the-wire Clash, but it was a contest largely decided by the rest of the rosters.
For North, it was a vital offensive contribution from Tia Williams alongside a stalwart defensive effort by Sam Landreth. Williams hit a three early that helped to put North on top in a defensive struggle, and gave the T-Wolves vital minutes when Paige Canty went out with foul trouble. She finished with seven points while also contributing to an aggressive North defense.
“Tia is a girl who could start on a lot of teams, but with our rotations it’s nice to have her come off the bench,” coach Jeff Blough said after North’s 41-33 win. “We got a lot of quality minutes from her tonight.”
The other major contribution the Timberwolves (2-1) got was from Landreth, who guarded Ely for most of the night and locked her down while the T-Wolves took control of the game in the first half. Landreth didn’t score, but she finished with eight rebounds and a pair of assists. More importantly, Ely didn’t score until there were just five minutes left in the second quarter, when Landreth left the game.
“I thought Sam did a great job,” Blough said. “Overall, I thought we played really good team defense when we weren’t fouling.”
For NHS, the balance the young Tigers showed was more than they have seen in years.
Ely led the team with 15 points, but all of her shots came within the flow of the offense rather than her being forced to take bad shots or take her defender off the dribble on every play.
Freshmen Bethany Franks and Dari Hunter were huge for NHS (0-3) against the T-Wolves. The pair combined for just 13 points but more importantly 14 rebounds, providing the only inside presence the Tigers have. Hunter, in particular, was effective off the bench, pulling down eight rebounds and earning the start in the second half.
“Dari gave us great minutes and effort,” coach Nichole Copeland said. “She has so much potential, and when she figures it out a little more she’s going to be really good.”
In addition to their on-court performance, Copeland was impressed at how mentally prepared her young team was for the heated stage that is the Crosstown Clash.
“They were very mentally attuned to the game,” she said. “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.”
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