NORMAN — When Norman North opened its season against Edmond Memorial Tuesday night, for much of the game the Timberwolves looked nothing like the team that advanced to the state tournament a year ago. Despite returning all five starters, the T-Wolves were out of sync for most of the first half, with bad ball movement and questionable decisions allowing the Bulldogs to build a double-digit lead.
It turned out all they needed was a little time.
The veteran group eased back into form as the game went on, and the fourth-ranked Timberwolves used a 20-5 run spanning the first and second half to take control of the game on their way to a 50-35 victory.
Considering the injuries the Timberwolves have dealt with in the past month, it was a surprise to coach Jeff Blough that they came out a little out of sorts. Two players, guard Bri Kuesterseffen and forward Julian Mougell missed significant time with concussions, while point guard Paige Canty almost didn’t play against Edmond Memorial due to a sprained ankle.
It was a turn of events that allowed other players to handle the ball more, and several made strides in the preseason that will provide the Timberwolves with some needed depth. But it came at the cost of some early season chemistry, something the Timberwolves will have to wait a week to test again since this weekend’s tournament in Durant has been canceled due to weather concerns.
Still, the T-Wolves are confident that it will pay off in the long run, a belief backed up by the fact that seven players scored on Tuesday night. More importantly, six of those players scored at least five points, and while Kuestersteffen led the way with 14, it was a far cry from stretches of last season where she would be forced to carry the offensive load herself.
“We have a lot more girls who can step up for us now,” Blough said. “That’s going to pay off for us down the road.”
One of those players is Sam Landreth. A defensive specialist, Landreth was at times left open to shoot last season by opposing defenses that would rather double down on the block than step out to guard her. She showed Tuesday that won’t be the case this season, knocking down a pair of deep shots in the third quarter when the Bulldogs tried just that.
The increased balance likely will mean more open shots and driving lanes for Kuestersteffen, who said that the team will focus on regaining their chemistry for the next few weeks.
“It felt great to finally be back on the court,” she said. “Once we got into the flow of the game we started to play much better together. We’ll focus on growing as a team and getting that chemistry back as a team so we can play smarter basketball.”
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