The Truckers were facing host Shelby in a Sandusky Bay Conference Lake division game — and could do no wrong in a 20-7 first quarter that it was able to maintain in a 57-45 win.
Norwalk improved to 8-2 overall and 3-0 in the Lake division, setting itself up for an important stretch of league games over the next two weeks.
It was 10-0 in favor of the Truckers from the start, but it wasn’t easy from start to finish.
The offense went stagnant in the middle two quarters, and the Whippets (2-6, 0-3) began chipping away at the deficit.
“That is something that for whatever reason we have done quite a bit of this season,” Norwalk coach Brock Manlet said. “We have gotten off to some good starts and then we get kind of complacent and lose focus. We are working on those issues, and hopefully will get better at playing all four quarters.
“Shelby did some things that made it difficult and threw us off our game,” he added. “But, we weren’t executing the offense like we know we can and was doing a lot of standing around.”
In the third quarter, the Whippets made their strongest move to try to take a lead. They got themselves to within four points, thanks to a technical foul on the Norwalk bench, and then converted a three-point play that never should have been.
Bailey Walter pulled down a rebound and quickly put up another shot attempt that clanged off the bottom of the rim. But there was a foul call, and the referee inexplicably gave her credit for making the shot that she clearly missed and sent her to the line.
“We had to overcome some stuff today,” Manlet said. “There was a lot of ticky-tacky stuff getting called and it took us out of our game for a while, but the girls didn’t let the game out of hand even though there was some disagreement from our side.”
But Norwalk eventually settled back in, outscoring Shelby by a 17-9 margin over the final eight minutes to win comfortably.
“That says a lot about this team,” Manlet said. “They could have sulked or paid attention to what the referees were doing and let the game continue to slip away, or they could do what they did and play through it. I am very proud of them for showing that resiliency.”
Senior Bethany Cling had a big day, as she led Norwalk with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting and grabbed six rebounds. She also put a lot of pressure on the Whippets’ offense, notching four steals.
Jasmine Thomas finished with 12 points and five rebounds, while Kaelyn Harkness finished with eight points, seven steals and five assists. Jada Thomas added 10 points.
“I think we let up a little defensively,” Shelby coach Natalie Lantz said. “We gave up some transitional buckets. Communication broke down a little bit and then we didn’t execute offensively like we had been doing in the second and third quarter.”
Norwalk was 22-of-51 shooting (43 percent) from the floor, and knocked down 9-of-18 free-throw attempts. Defensively, Norwalk had 17 steals as the Whippets struggled through 30 turnovers.
Bailey Walter led Shelby with 17 points and nine rebounds.
Norwalk is off until a Friday night home game vs. Sandusky (4-7, 0-5) on Jan. 5, followed by a highly-anticipated matchup vs. Bellevue (10-1, 3-0) on Jan. 9.