Unfortunately for the Norwalk boys basketball team, that has been the end result more times than not — and Thursday’s Sandusky Bay Conference Lake division game vs. Shelby was no different.
The Truckers rallied from 14 points down with under a minute left in the second quarter to take a lead over the Lake favorite Whippets. But three straight empty possessions followed, and Norwalk did not score in the last 5:45 of a 42-31 loss at Norwalk High School.
The fact that Norwalk (3-6, 2-2) was even in the game late was a surprise. The Truckers were just 12-of-47 shooting from the field and took just four free throws, making three.
Norwalk has lost four of its six games in which it either had a chance to tie or win in the final two minutes.
“That’s sort of been who we are this year,” Norwalk coach Steve Gray said. “For whatever reason, we’re just not shooting the ball really well. I don’t know why … we’re a good shooting team in practice.
“But I think part of it is the ball is sticking a little bit,” he added. “We have to decide quicker to make that extra pass.”
Shelby (6-2, 2-2) scored the first six points of the game in barely over a minute, and led 17-7 after the first quarter. The Whippets extended that lead to 22-7 less than a minute into the second — and still led 26-12 after a steal and layup by Uriah Schwemley with 57 seconds left in the first half.
It was still a 14-point deficit (28-14) with 6:44 left in the third quarter, but then the Truckers went to work.
Jacob Roth made the first of three 3-pointers, and Brandon Haraway followed with a driving basket to quickly cut the deficit to 28-19.
Another 3-pointer by Roth with 3:20 left in the third quarter made it a 30-24 deficit — but then a foreshadowing of events closed out the quarter for Norwalk. The Truckers had two straight chances, including a missed layup, but instead came away with no points and the same 30-24 margin entering the final eight minutes.
Haraway then opened the fourth with back-to-back baskets to make it 30-28 with 6:42 left. After another Shelby miss, Roth drained his third 3-pointer — and the Truckers had suddenly taken a 31-30 lead with 5:45 left.
Schwemley then split a pair of free throws with 4:49 left to tie the game at 31 — and the next two minutes determined the game.
The Truckers again had three straight possessions, and missed two point-blank shots, when the score was tied at 31. Shelby’s Brady Hill then drilled a 3-pointer, and five seconds later made two free throws for a 36-31 lead with 3:19 left.
As Norwalk didn’t score again, the Whippets put the game away with six more points for the final margin.
“We gave up 16 points in the second half,” Gray said. “ We defended well, fought back and had the lead with a chance to extend it against a very good team. We just sort of let one slip away.
“I think their length gave us problems tonight,” he added. “They had numerous (six) blocked shots. There was quite a discrepancy in fouls, but that’s part of the game.”
Haraway, who fouled out with 3:42 left in the game, finished with nine points and eight rebounds to pace the Truckers. Roth also had nine points, while Kyler Lacy added four points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
Garrett Chapin also grabbed seven rebounds for Norwalk — which sees a first-half schedule remain difficult Saturday when it visits Sandusky (6-4, 3-2).
With all the close losses to quality teams piling up, Gray was asked what he will tell his team moving forward.
“Same thing we tell them every time — we need a great practice (today) and a championship effort on Saturday,” he said. “We haven’t had a bad practice in three weeks, honestly.
“Against Keystone (55-39 loss Dec. 16), we just didn’t play hard,” Gray added. “But since then, we have played hard, and I expect we’ll continue to do so.”
Shelby also won the junior varsity game, 45-40. For Norwalk, Nolan Flowers had 10 points and five rebounds, while Garrett Obringer added eight points.