Feb. 24–NORWALK — Jacob Roth let go of a 3-pointer 15 seconds into the third quarter and was knocked to the ground.
As the Norwalk senior laid there to collect his thoughts, he heard the crowd react.
“I just said to myself, ‘I’m feeling it today,'” Roth said. “But the more ball movement, the more shots I’m going to get. I was happy with that.”
Roth added the free throw for a four-point play to start the second half, breaking open a tie game en route to a 53-42 win over Bellevue in the final game of the regular season Friday night at Norwalk High School.
Playing in his final home game, Roth finished 7-of-10 shooting, including 5-of-8 from the three-point line, for a game-high 20 points. The Truckers, winners of 10 of their last 12 games, close the regular season with a 13-9 overall mark, and 7-5 in the SBC Lake division.
“To beat Bellevue in our last home game is one thing, but to really contribute to my team means the world to me,” Roth said. “I get emotional just thinking about tonight.
“The feelings are indescribable to me,” he added. “The atmosphere was great, so many people, the student section was full. Our team brought it for them.”
After Roth’s four-point play gave Norwalk a 27-23 lead, senior Eric Hull added a pair of free throws 32 seconds later to extend the lead to 29-23. Bellevue got no closer than five points the rest of the game.
Leading 33-27 after Bellevue’s Gavin Sparling made a 3-pointer, the Truckers got back-to-back baskets from Brandon Haraway and Roth to close the quarter with a 37-27 lead.
After allowing 23 points in the first half, the Truckers held Bellevue to just the Sparling 3-pointer from the floor in the third.
Bellevue (10-12, 4-8) did not score for a 5:40 stretch in the second half, and scored just nine points over a 13:07 stretch. Junior guard Trey Ruhlman, the leading scorer (20.4 ppg) in the Lake division, was held to seven points on 3-of-11 shooting. He scored two of those baskets in the final three minutes of the game.
The Truckers allow 48.2 points per game defensively — tops in the Lake division.
“That’s what Norwalk does to everybody,” Bellevue coach Ed Rich said. “They are very good defensively, but the scary thing is they play their best defense in the second half. They start adjusting, and then it’s going to be even harder. We had to toughen up.
“We got some decent looks, but couldn’t them to fall,” he added. “We have the best scorer in the league, and he just couldn’t get going. They did a great job on him. He got contested looks and they just weren’t falling. If you can’t score more than 10 points in a 14-minute span or whatever it was, then yeah, you’re in trouble.”
The Truckers blew the game open to start the fourth quarter. Haraway netted two free throws, and Andrew Ehrenberg scored back-to-back baskets to extend the lead to 44-27 with 6:24 left.
Haraway capped the night with a breakaway slam dunk for a 48-32 lead with 2:26 left.
Roth made four of his 3-pointers in the first half to keep the Truckers in the game. Norwalk trailed by as many as four (21-17), but Roth scored twice in 46 seconds to put his team back on top.
“Jake Waskielis had 10 or 11 points at halftime, almost half their points,” Norwalk coach Steve Gray said of the 23-23 halftime tie. “And then Brandon did a great job on him in the second half. Brandon had a great game defensively and scored 19 — but what about the start Jacob Roth gave us?
“(Assistant) Coach (Tom) Foster had been telling him for a few weeks he always plays well at the end of the season, and tonight he hit his perimeter shots,” he added. “But what a great night for the seniors. To go out with 13 wins and a home win over Bellevue is quite an accomplishment. What a great group of young men.”
Haraway finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists for Norwalk, as the junior and Roth combined for 39 of the team’s 53 points. Garrett Chapin added 11 rebounds.
Waskielis was the lone player in double figures for the Redmen with 14 points.
Bellevue will play top-seeded Vermilion in a Division II sectional semifinal on Tuesday at Willard High School. The Truckers face Perkins (12-10) for a third time this season in a 6:15 p.m. sectional semifinal at Mansfield Madison on Wednesday.
In Friday’s junior varsity game, Norwalk posted a 40-37 win to finish the season at 13-8 overall (7-5 SBC Lake). Ryan Sowders led the team with 16 points, while Garrett Obringer added 15. Andrew Mozina had seven rebounds, and stole the ball in the final seconds with the Redmen attempting to tie the game.
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