First-year Norman North girls basketball coach Al Beal has a couple of thoughts on the Timberwolves’ opening night loss to Edmond North.
One, he believes the Huskies to be the state’s best team and he has lots of company.
In the season-opening Class 6A coaches poll, Edmond North has received 21 first-place votes, 17 more than the four received by both No. 2 Bixby and No. 3 Norman High.
Two, much of the lopsidedness of the 51-point loss — 81-20 — the T-Wolves took Tuesday night was rooted in things North is not bound to experience again.
“I think a lot of that was first-game nerves, plus playing, in my opinion, the best team in the state,” he said. “I think we will gradually … make steady progress over the course of the season.”
Their first chance to offer some of that progress comes this evening, when North tips off at Westmoore, which fell 60-45 opening night at archrival Moore.
The T-Wolves are very much a blank canvas. The only player in Beal’s regular rotation to have played major minutes a year ago is 5-foot-11 junior Hannah Fields, who was the first player off then-North coach Rory Hamilton’s bench last season.
She’s likely to be the T-Wolves leading scorer and still she could use all the help she can get.
Beal believes North has the intangibles to make real strides during the season.
“They didn’t get as much time at the varsity level to gain that experience [last season], so, as a result, they’re hungry to prove a point to other teams in the conference,” he said. “Don’t overlook us.”
That conference is the COAC, which includes all three Moore schools, all three Edmond schools, Deer Creek, Yukon, Mustang, Stillwater and both schools in the Norman district.
Beal was impressed with his squad’s first response to their first loss.
By 6:30 the next morning, they were together, engaged, going over video of the night before.
Fields, who scored seven points against Edmond North, likes the path on which her team is headed.
“I think, as the season progresses, we’re gonna get better and better each game,” she said. “Our goal is just to improve and work on things we didn’t go well the last game.”
In addition to Fields, Beal identified three other juniors he expects to help lead the squad.
One is Brooklyn Horton.
“She’s a streaky player and we’re going to depend on her to score a little bit more this year,” he said. “In reality, we’re going to have to score as a group. Some nights we may have to … just make it ugly.”
One player who might help him do that is Avery Robins, who Beal said can defend every position on the court.
Audrey Tucker, yet another junior, will run the point for the T-Wolves.
Beal calls her “the glue.”
Likely, North has nowhere to go but up after Tuesday’s opener.
“We’re going to be the team that’s going to be more aggressive,” Fields said. “If we win or lose, we can’t really control that, but we’re going to be the ones on the floor first, making sure we hit someone on the blockouts and just be the aggressor, come out swinging first.”