There is still a lot of season left for the Norwalk girls basketball team. The Truckers just played their final game until after Christmas — and it was another tough loss to endure.
Facing a talented Wellington team with three 6-foot veteran players in its lineup, the young Norwalk roster had no chance. The Dukes (6-2) raced out to a 22-0 lead with ease in the 65-30 win on Monday at Norwalk High School.
With the loss, Norwalk fell to 1-6 — and many of the setbacks have been by wide margins.
So what can be said in a game when it’s a 22-0 deficit with 13 turnovers less than seven minutes in?
“It’s hard. It’s not easy on the kids or the coaches, but you have no choice but to suck it up and play,” Norwalk coach Brock Manlet said. “Our message to them is to forget about the score and play as hard as you possibly can for whatever stretch you are in the game.
“Let’s try to get better every time you are on the floor — and I thought we did a better job of that in the second half,” he added.
Part of the problem in the first month for Norwalk, which returned just two seniors and less than 50 points from a 20-win, district runners-up team a year ago, has been the schedule.
There have been few breaks against teams such as Division I Perrysburg, a regional semifinalist a year ago. Willard, Perkins and Wellington are each in the midst of strong starts to this season as well.
“The hard thing is to convince them they are getting better on nights when the scoreboard doesn’t indicate it,” Manlet said of his team. “We knew we were young and inexperienced, but we’ve also faced a brutal schedule so far.
“We focused on that after the game, the fact that we are getting better,” he added. “It’s been a bad combination with the inexperience and playing the schedule we have so far. But we’re trying to convince them the stuff we’re doing is working, and there are signs we are doing stuff better. Hopefully down the road it pays dividends.”
Monday’s best stretch saw Norwalk score eight straight points when it faced a 27-2 deficit late in the first quarter. Lindsey Koenig closed the quarter with a 3-pointer, while Paige Maurer and Koenig opened the second quarter with baskets.
That made the deficit 27-10 at the 6:51 mark of the quarter, but the Dukes took back control with a 15-2 scoring run to end the first half.
Manlet was asked what his team is doing better, even if the results aren’t showing in the boxscore.
“We’re passing the ball better and looking for things more than we have in the past,” he said. “We’re getting the ball inside better, and it’s created some open shots on the outside — we just have to knock those down. I think defensively we’re doing a better job of rotations and things like that.
“Those are a couple things off the top of my head I think we’re doing better, but we’re playing good teams and they are taking advantage of every mistake we make,” Manlet added. “It’s tough to convince them that we are getting better, but I think we are.”
For Norwalk, Maurer had nine points and seven rebounds. Koenig added eight points, two rebounds and two steals, while Elena Barber had six points, five rebounds and two steals.
Norwalk is off for a 12-day stretch until hosting Fremont Ross on Dec. 29.
“The main thing we’ll work on is skill work,” Manlet said of the break. “We’ll focus on dribbling, shooting and passing, just fundamentals. Each of them has to get better individually for us to get better as a team.
“As repetitive as the things are that we’re doing, everyone needs it — and hopefully those little things every day in practice helps us in games down the road,” he added.
In the junior varsity game, Norwalk claimed a 40-21 win behind 14 points from Janel Jubak.
Alexis Lehmkuhl 9-2—20; Erin Frenk 3-0—6; Brooklinn Damiano 1-0—2; Jalen Gibbs 8-1—17; Lexi Wright 4-0—12; Grace Dudziak 1-0—2; Julia Molek 1-0—2; Jenna Calfo 2-0—4. TOTALS 29-3—65.
Mascie Horner 1-0—3; Lindsey Koenig 3-0—8; Elena Barber 3-0—6; Paige Maurer 4-1—9; Alexis Nolan 1-2—4. TOTALS 12-3—30.
Wellington 27 15 10 13 — 65
Norwalk 5 7 6 12 — 30
3-point FGs: (W) Wright 4; (N) Koenig 2, Horner