On a day where it was a struggle for the better part of three quarters, the Truckers pulled away from visiting Ontario in three-minute stretch of the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 44-33 win at Norwalk High School.
With the win, Norwalk improved to 7-2 overall — with a pair of non-league losses to Division I Perrysburg and an overtime loss at Willard.
It’s a prospect Norwalk coach Brock Manlet would have signed up for in the preseason, as the coach entered a year needing to replace a 2,000-point scorer and Div. I recruit (Jiselle Thomas).
“We talked a little about it on Friday as a team,” Manlet said. “There was definitely a lot of doubts about us entering the year. So if you would have told me at the beginning of the year that we’d be 7-2, and really one basket away from being 8-1, I certainly would have taken it.
“We’ve played a nice schedule, and I just think we’re growing up as a team,” he added. “We’re finding ways to win, and today is a game where we really struggled for three quarters, but found a way. I’m happy to see that, because there are going to be games down the road where we’ll have to do that.”
Norwalk shot just 3-of-10 in the first quarter and trailed by a 10-6 score. It was tied at 20 at halftime, and a slim 30-29 advantage through three quarters.
But to open the fourth, Bethany Cring connected on a short jumper, and grabbed a steal and got the ball to Jada Thomas for a basket down low for a 34-29 lead.
Cring then split a pair of free throws, and a mid-range jumper with 4:13 left extended the lead to 37-29. Jasmine Thomas then capped a 9-0 scoring run with another basket to make it a 39-29 lead with 3:51 left in the game.
Norwalk was able to keep Nashail Shelby under wraps in the fourth quarter. Nearing 1,000 career points (985), Shelby scored 18 in the first three quarters.
“In the fourth quarter the girls started doing what we asked them to do,” Manlet said. “We had a game plan in terms of guarding Shelby, and for the first three quarters we didn’t really follow that. We let her roam and let her get to her left, where she likes to drive to the basket.
“In the fourth quarter that turned around because we started paying attention to those things,” he added. “We were able to limit her, which got us going on the offensive end, too.”
Cring finished with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting and grabbed five rebounds.
“She was the primary defender on Shelby, and for her to expend all that energy on that end and be able to come down here and get 17 points was huge,” Manlet said. “If we don’t have her, I don’t know that we win the game.”
Jasmine Thomas added 12 points and six rebounds for Norwalk, which is off until Dec. 30th when it travels to Shelby for an SBC Lake division game.