Matt Neuberger couldn’t hear anything.
Andrew Ehrenberg saw everything stop. Steve Gray stood quietly, with nothing to say.
On a night when every statistic and lack of key players in uniform screamed a loss, the Norwalk boys basketball team left Columbian High School with a 51-50 win.
Neuberger’s two free throws — his only two attempts from the line in the game — with 7.9 seconds left capped a 14-point second half comeback for the Truckers’ first win of the season in Friday’s Sandusky Bay Conference Lake division opener.
After Neuberger made the two free throws, Columbian’s Todd Simonds put up an out of control shot that didn’t go down. However, Braden Brown was there for the putback basket — but it was waved off by the officials.
With 11 minutes left in the game, the Tornadoes had made 10 3-pointers, Norwalk was 8-of-16 at the free-throw line and were playing without two starters and a key reserve while down 14 points.
But by game’s end, the Truckers had only allowed one more 3-pointer, and made 6-of-7 foul shots down the stretch — none bigger than Nueberger’s, who came up with a loose ball in a scrum and threw up a shot to get fouled.
“The ball just kind of came to me there, and I told myself to just block out the noise,” Neuberger said. “Everything goes silent. I couldn’t hear anything.
“It was just silence,” he added. “I’m a decent free-show shooter, so I have confidence I can make them in that spot.”
No timeout was called after the free throws, and Columbian inbounded to Simonds — who had given his team a 48-46 lead with 1:25 left. He drove to the lane and missed, and Brown — who at one point was white hot from the three-point line — was there for the easy putback.
However, the basket was waved off by the official trailing the play from the top of the key.
The three officials then huddled, and confirmed again the basket had come after the buzzer to set off a Norwalk celebration.
“I was frozen, just hoping when it came down,” said Norwalk senior Andrew Ehrenberg, who played a huge role in the comeback with 15 points and seven rebounds.
“You could tell he was going to make the shot when he put it back up,” Ehrenberg said. “You want the officials to get it right, but you also want to win. I’m just glad it went our way.”
The Truckers (1-1, 1-0) trailed by 14 with 1:15 left in the second quarter, but had cut it to 29-21 by halftime. However, the Tornadoes pushed the lead back up to 14 less than two minutes into the third quarter, as they led 35-21 with 6:17 left in the quarter.
It was still 40-26 in favor of the Tornadoes with 3:21 left in the third, but Norwalk closed the quarter with eight of the next 10 points to close within 42-34 with eight minutes left. Freshman Garrett Chapin and senior Eric Hull each had four points in the span for the Truckers.
It was a 43-37 deficit with 4:40 left. But Chapin connected on 3-of-4 foul shots — then fed a nice pass underneath to senior Jacob Roth, who was fouled and converted a three-point play for a 43-43 tie with 3:07 left.
Each team then traded 3-pointers, and the Simonds basket with 85 seconds to go put the Tornadoes up two. But Ehrenberg buried his third 3-pointer from the right corner with 34.3 seconds left for a 49-48 lead.
Columbian’s Jared Akers was fouled and made both his free throws with 25 seconds left to put Tiffin back up 50-49 — setting off the final chain of events.
“We have kids with great character,” Gray said. “They just hung with it. That’s all we said to them. Just grind it out. They stuck with it, and made one more play than they did.”
Columbian finished the game 11-of-20 from the three-point line, with Brown making five to finish with 16 points.
Chapin finished with 19 points and seven rebounds in his second varsity game, while Hull added 11 points, five rebounds and five key steals.
“We didn’t think we were out of it,” Gray said. “I told them before the game, I would sign a paper for a one-point win. Just find a way. We are fortune enough to leave here with just that.”
In the junior varsity game, the Truckers won, 42-32, behind 15 points from Garrett Obringer and 12 from Ryan Sowders.
Norwalk returns to action tonight with a stern test vs. Div. I Mansfield Madison in the home opener.
NORWALK (1-1, 1-0)
Garrett Chapin 5-7–19; Jacob Roth 1-2–4; Eric Hull 5-1–11; Matt
Neuberger 0-2–2; Andrew Ehrenberg 5-2–15. TOTALS 16-14–51.
COLUMBIAN (0-3, 0-1)
Todd Simonds 2-0–5; Jakob Amory 2-0–5; Donnell Brockington 2-0–6; Braden Brown 5-1–16; Tyrin Smith 1-2–4; Jared Akers 3-2–11; Riley Sendelbach 1-0–2. TOTALS 16-5–50.
Norwalk 10 11 13 17 — 51
Columbian 10 19 13 8 — 50
3-point FGs: (N) Ehrenberg 3, Chapin 2; (TC) Brown 5, Akers 3,
Brockington 2, Amory
JV: Norwalk, 42-42
(c)2017 the Norwalk Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio)
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