Feb. 18–NORWALK — The Truckers bounced back from losing a chance at the Sandusky Bay Conference Lake division title vs. Sandusky on Friday to grinding out a double-digit win Saturday night in a non-league game.
Norwalk blew open a tight game through three quarters to beat visiting Ashland, 50-35, to improve to 12-9 overall. The victory clinched the first winning season in four years for the program, which has won nine of its last 11 games after a 3-7 start.
But it was the 2-20 Arrows that had the hot hand early. By 4:23 left in the first quarter, Ashland had hit three 3-pointers to take an 11-4 lead. The visitors had a 17-10 advantage to end the quarter.
That was when Norwalk coach Steve Gray and his staff changed their defensive strategy.
“(Garrett) Denbow goes off for seven in the first quarter. Then we put Brandon (Haraway) on him; he’s like a shutdown corner in football and he did a great job,” Gray said.
Haraway scored 14 points in the first half and ended the night with 25 on 10-of-15 shooting. The junior also grabbed six rebounds, blocked two shots and added a steal.
“This was Brandon’s best game of the year,” Gray said. “I just thought tonight (Jacob) Roth and Brandon were outstanding.”
In the second half, Roth started getting clean looks at the basket. His nine points came on a trio of 3-pointers.
“When he makes three’s, everything becomes a lot easier,” Gray said.
Roth also distributed seven assists, several to Haraway under the basket.
Freshman Garrett Chapin had eight points and eight rebounds, with senior Eric Hull also adding seven rebounds and three assists.
Norwalk started the second quarter on a 7-0 run. The score was tied at 17 with 4:12 left until halftime.
Ashland held onto a 26-22 lead going into the locker room.
“We didn’t shoot well in the first half, but once we got that three-point lead, Roth hits a three-pointer; we go up six. We got a layup and then it came back to us pretty easy again,” Gray said.
“We lost our identity and we had four kids not playing hard enough,” he added, referring to his halftime message to the team. “It was a situation where kids lost or forgot what their roles are. We have some kids (who) are great defenders. We have some kids (who) can shoot it and our shooters were taking bad shots and our defenders weren’t defending up to their ability, except for Brandon.”
The Truckers led 34-33 at the end of the third quarter. Norwalk outscored Ashland 12-7 in the quarter. In fact, Norwalk allowed Ashland to score only 18 points in the last three quarters.
“In the second half defensively we were just solid,” Gray said. “Jacob hit a couple shots for us and that just loosened things up. We are sort of a grind-it-out team. I thought we lost our identity a little bit in the first half and I thought we stepped up.”
Norwalk was on an 8-0 run with about three minutes left in the game and the score was 44-33.
The Truckers finished the night on a 6-0 run. They outscored Ashland 16-2 in the final quarter.
“I told them, ‘get stops and we need quality shots’ and they made them, and life is good,” Gray said.
Norwalk dominated Ashland in the junior varsity game to improve to 12-8. The Truckers led 32-8 at halftime on the way to a 58-27 win.
Sophomore Ryan Sowders led all scorers with 17 points and seven rebounds, with Justin Sommers adding 16 points
The Truckers end the regular season at home vs. Bellevue (10-10, 4-7) in a SBC Lake division game Friday.
Follow Reflector staff writer Cary Ashby on Twitter at @Cary_reporter and on Facebook at “Cary Ashby — reporter & comic book blogger.”
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