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Slow start haunts Norwalk late in first SBC loss

Mark Hazelwood • Updated Dec 21, 2017 at 11:10 PM

NORWALK — On the surface, it looks like Norwalk lost a close one late.

But to a coach of almost 700 games, that wasn’t the case.

The Truckers had four chances to tie or take the lead in Thursday’s 49-44 loss to Perkins in an SBC Lake division game.

Instead, Norwalk is 2-4 overall and 2-1 in the Lake following the setback.

“I think the game was lost in the first quarter,” Norwalk coach Steve Gray said.

The Truckers didn’t score for the first 4:07 of the game, and at one point trailed by 10 in the first half — and still trailed by nine (29-20) with just under 13 minutes left.

“We played hard tonight,” Gray said. “We gave up 49 points, and if we didn’t have to foul at the very end, in reality it was 45 points. That’s good enough to win a lot of games.

“But as a team, we have to get our head up on the rim, and we have got to finish inside,” he added. “And right now, we’re just not getting that done.”

Brandon Haraway and Jacob Roth — who combined for 39 of Norwalk’s 44 points — ignited a third quarter run to get the Truckers back in the game.

Roth connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to make it a 30-28 deficit, and Haraway stole the ball from a Perkins player in the backcourt for a layup with three seconds left in the third to trim the deficit to 31-30.

The Pirates appeared to right the ship with two baskets by Helmut Wheeler to begin the fourth for a 35-30 lead with 6:51 left. But Haraway kept playing aggressively despite four fouls, drilling a three and converting a pair of free throws with 6:20 left to tie the game at 35.

Perkins again went up four two more times in the final quarter, the last with just under four minutes left (41-37).

Back-to-back baskets by Roth and Haraway tied the game with 2:50 left. After a basket inside by Wheeler, Roth drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner for Norwalk’s first lead of the game at 44-43 with 2:06 left.

The Pirates (5-1, 3-0) got the lead back for good 30 seconds later on jumper by Bennett McCune with 1:37 remaining. With possession of the ball and under a minute left, Gray was going to have his team play for the win.

However, out of a timeout, the Truckers turned the ball over underneath the basket.

“That just stole the momentum from us,” Gray said of the turnover. “We were in great shape there. We were going to play for the win and felt we had a great play called — and I would have liked to have seen what happened.”

Wheeler split a pair of free throws with 36 seconds left for a 46-44 lead, giving Norwalk a second chance to tie or take the lead. But Haraway missed a runner from the baseline, and Wheeler was fouled again with 19.6 seconds left.

The 6-foot-5 senior again split the pair, making it a 47-44 lead. With yet another opportunity to tie the game, Haraway missed a three.

He got his own rebound — but when trying to get the ball to Roth, it was deflected and resulted in a turnover with just over a second remaining.

“In basketball, it’s not the great plays that win games — it’s the team that makes the fewest mistakes,” Gray said. “We can go back to missed layups and free throws, missing a box out … we’re close to being a good team. But we’re not there yet.”

Haraway finished with 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting, and grabbed nine rebounds and had three assists. Roth was 7-of-13 shooting for 18 points, and freshman Garrett Chapin added nine rebounds.

Despite only four players scoring, Thursday was the first game this season the Truckers had their full team. They will face Lexington (2-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Richland Source Challenge at Ontario High School.

“It was nice to have everyone back, but now we have another big task on Saturday against another very good team,” Gray said.

In the junior varsity game, it was the Pirates pulling away late in a 43-37 win. Ryan Sowders scored 10 points for Norwalk, while Nolan Flowers added eight.

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