TULSA — The Norman North girls won 10 straight to begin the season before losing at Edmond North
They then went out and beat then-No. 2 Edmond Memorial, then-No. 8 Moore, then-No. 11 Mustang, Durant and then-No. 5 Sand Springs.
They were humming.
Then they lost 4 of 5, one of them by 23 points at Moore, another by 19 to Norman High.
They were done.
However, at noon today, the Timberwolves play for the first gold ball in their program’s history.
Norman High lost its first game of the season, even on its home court, to Deer Creek by eight points in a game that didn’t feel that close.
Next game they lost to Moore by a bucket and after three wins, lost to Norman North by a point.
They were 4-3.
They were forgotten.
They were so forgotten that despite going 14-3 the rest of the regular season and earning wins over then-No. 1 Edmond Memorial, Class 5A No. 1 Piedmont, No. 4 Norman North and No. 3 Moore, the Class 6A coaches still only ranked them No. 12, where they’ll forever remain because the final regular season poll is the final poll, period.
However, at noon today, the Tigers play for the their first gold ball since 2005 and their fourth in program history.
They play each other.
Norman High and Norman North will play each other for the first time, in any sport, for a state championship.
A long way from home — yet plenty near enough for thousands to to get to Oral Roberts University’s Mabee Center in time for the noon tip — the biggest Crosstown Clash of them all is set.
• • •
Thinking about the Tigers and the omnipresent fact they start two freshmen and two sophomores, the voice in your head is the Who’s Roger Daltrey, singing Pete Townshend’s lyrics, belting out “The Kids are Alright.”
Except that they’re better than all right and Friday, in their 55-48 takedown of Edmond Santa Fe, no kid was more all right than McKayla Parks.
She played 27 minutes, finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, dished an assist and blocked a shot. She made 2 of 7 shots and 1 of 4 from 3-point land. She took eight free throws. If you’re doing the math, you already know she made all eight.
There may not be a more dynamic Tiger this postseason than Myka Perry or a greater force than Kendra Gillespie. Kelbie Washington’s the point guard and does a little of everything and a trio of seniors do whatever’s required.
Where does that leave Parks?
Friday morning it left left her at the free-throw line for eight attempts, six of them in the fourth quarter, around 10:15 in the morning, all by herself because her teammates were told to hang on the other side of half court … and she drilled every single one of them.
“I just step up there like it’s a normal free throw in practice,” Parks said.
She shoots 100 percent in practice?
All of them are bound to be good today and one of them, like Parks on Friday, may stick out for an entirely different reason.
It’s hard to know.
What’s easy to know is the NHS girls are so far ahead of schedule it’s crazy and it’s happening because of performances like Parks'.
It’s always something and always someone or several someones and it’s brought the Tigers to the bring of a state championship.
• • •
The crazy thing about North is as good the T-Wolves were when they were unbeaten, as good as they were when they were 15-1, they’re so much better now.
Also, only a month ago, they weren't nearly as good as they were when they were 10-0 and 15-1.
They’ve resurrected themselves.
“All the credit goes to our girls,” coach Rory Hamilton said.
It’s them on the floor, of course, but the arrangement is dual, because if you can recall a high school basketball team, period, that runs its own stuff as well as the North girls are running their stuff, congratulations, and somebody's got to conduct the symphony.
Be ready to give up a layup.
It happened three different times Friday, when Mustang needed not just a stop, but a turnover and all it got was two more points for the T-Wolves.
North’s first two baskets Friday were drop-in layups from Jessika Evans, because she got just the right position in the post at just the right time and Emma Base, first, and Monica McCombs, second, delivered just the right pass at just the right time.
Evans scores a lot of points, so that's not unusual, yet neither Base nor McCombs are assist machines and neither is a point guard, the position played by Evans’ sister Jacie.
Perfect execution gave North a 5-0 lead, announcing the kind of precise game the T-Wolves intended to play.
Later, they ran what looked like the exact same set, with the exact same sequence of passes, pushing their lead to 41-33 the last minute of the third quarter, yet it was Kayton Kite throwing the pass and Base dropping it in the basket.
See, it’s not one, two or three of them, but every single one of them.
“Execution” is the most overused word in sports, yet it’s the only word for North.
The only one.
• • •
So here we are.
NHS is uber-talented, more than North, yet the rate at which the Tigers are coming into their own is a tribute to the players’ poise beyond their years and coach Michael Neal’s ability to help them find it.
Then there’s North, playing the game, putting into action all the little details birthed on chalkboards and reiterated on dry-erase boards in timeouts, and doing it better than any team, boys or girls, you’re ever likely to see.
And that’s the matchup.
They both belong.
They both have every reason to believe they’re going to win.
Only one can.
Around 1:30 p.m. today, we’ll lament that reality. Until then, we get to know that one of them will and it’s pretty cool.
It doesn’t get any better.