After watching his team play its worst half of the season during the first 16 minutes of Saturday’s game at Sandusky, Norwalk coach Brock Manlet knew he was facing something that went well beyond coaching.
So he got his message out, then left his girls in the locker room.
The Truckers had turned the ball over 14 times in the opening two quarters, often struggling just to complete a possession as the Blue Streaks outhustled and were more physical — particularly on offensive rebounding.
Yet as bad as it went, Norwalk still found itself up 26-24.
“We told them to stay in there for a minute, talk to each other and get things figured out,” Manlet said. “That’s about all we could do as coaches.”
It must have worked.
The Truckers scored 10 points in the opening two minutes of the third, while holding Sandusky scoreless for over six minutes in what turned into a 62-33 rout.
Now, Norwalk (17-3, 9-1) needs a win at Tiffin Columbian on Monday so it can turn its attention to Thursday’s final game at Division II No. 3-ranked Bellevue (20-1, 10-0) — where a win would give it a Sandusky Bay Conference Lake division title share.
“Nothing like that. But you got to give (Sandusky) credit, too. I thought they played really well in the first half,” said Manlet, asked if he’d ever seen his team go through the kind of change in one half as his team went through Saturday. “On top of that, we didn’t play our best. You get those two things going, and you get a first half like we had.
“Credit to our girls, we came out in that second half and were lights out defensively, got turnovers and we were able to run the floor a little bit,” he added. “Everybody knows with our team that when we play defense we’re pretty tough. We just didn’t do it in the first half, but instead, decided to do it in the second half.”
Picking up the pressure, the Truckers forced the Streaks (5-16, 1-11) into 10 turnovers in the half’s first five minutes. By then, Jasmine Thomas’ jumper was putting the finishing touches on a 16-0 run.
Suddenly, Norwalk led 44-24 and the rout was on.
Jasmine Thomas had 14 points to pace nine Truckers to reach the scoring column. She also pitched in six rebounds and three steals. Bethany Cring had 13 points to go with eight boards, while Jada Thomas added 10 points, along with her seven assists and six steals.
Sandusky never let Norwalk get a lead bigger than six in the opening half, starting the game by scoring seven of the first 11 points.
Cring’s 3-pointer gave the Truckers a 17-11 lead after one quarter, but the Blue Streaks started the second with a 5-0 run to cut the deficit down to one.
During the first half, Sandusky’s ball movement had Norwalk scrambling. And when shots weren’t falling, usually Tia Harper or Da’Shanti Miller were right there under the rim to clean up the loose ball.
“At half, we talked about coming out in the third and taking away their confidence,” Manlet said. “You look at our scoring, our normal kids scored, but most of kids played defense and created opportunities for other people.
“From a 12-deep standpoint, I thought everyone who got on the floor contributed at least on the defensive end, which was allowing us to get out and run,” he added.