NORMAN — When last season ended, it was with an air of hope for Norman North. The Timberwolves were returning nearly every member of a young team and looked poised for success in the 2012-13 season.
Thus far, they’ve found that success. The T-Wolves are 8-1 and hanging just outside the top 10 in Class 6A, readying for a home showdown at 6:15 p.m. today against No. 7 Edmond Memorial that should tell them just how far they’ve come.
But while North’s success may not have come as a surprise, the way the T-Wolves have gotten there has been nothing less.
Coach Jeff Blough expected to return nearly all of last year’s team, but when several players left to focus on other sports, he was faced with the prospect of another season of developing young talent.
It was a change of plans that threatened to delay North’s ascension to the top tier of Class 6A hoops. Led by returning starters Haley Woodard and Bri Kuestersteffen, the T-Wolves were sure to be dangerous, but competing with the likes of perennial state-tournament contenders like Memorial was seen by some as out of reach.
Inside the locker room, the T-Wolves didn’t see it that way. They knew they had talent and heart to compete, regardless of age and experience descrepancies.
Sophomores Paige Canty and Tia Williams have been outstanding on the wings for North, and inside the paint the duo of junior center Julian Mougell and surging freshman Alexa Scott have given the T-Wolves the balance they’ve needed to string together eight straight wins after a season-opening loss to Putnam City North.
Still, no one player has stepped up more this year than sophomore Sam Landreth. The consummate team player — she even describes herself as a role player — the undersized-but-overachieving forward entered the starting lineup for the first time against Norman High and has brought something to the table that the Timberwolves can’t do without.
“It’s the intangibles,” Blough said. “She brings it every day in practice. She locks down the other team’s best player all night. She’s quietly our defensive leader and is the key to how well we’ve been playing.”
Her statistical averages are modest, coming in at around four rebounds and three points a game. But the numbers don’t even begin to tell the story. She leads the team in charges taken (12). She doesn’t turn the ball over or make bad decisions.
“When I came up to varsity last year as a freshmen I didn’t even know what was going on,” Landreth said. “This year, it’s been great playing with the team and figuring it out together.”
Heading into a game tonight that will be watched closely by the rest of the state and serve notice of how far North has or hasn’t come, Landreth is happy to just do her part.
“We have a lot of people who are good at scoring on this team, and I would rather get those people the ball on offense,” she said. “On defense, I want to be the one helping the helper and doing what I’m supposed to do.
“It’s going to be a good matchup, and they’re a good team. Some people have said we haven’t played anybody yet this year, so beating them would help greatly with earning us some respect.”
Corbin HoslerFollow me @Chosler88chosler@normantranscript.com