Finding the opening teammate will take a player from good to great — or from great to even better.
Brandon Haraway scored a game-high 19 points, but also added nine assists and six rebounds to lead Norwalk to a 62-44 win over Ontario at Norwalk High School on Saturday.
"Brandon has great vision," Norwalk coach Steve Gray said. "Tonight, he helped make people around him better. People were getting to their spots and Brandon was finding them and they were finishing. I think that was the key for us to be successful."
The win is the 11th straight victory for the Truckers (13-2).
"Brandon was really good," Ontario coach Joe Balogh said of the NCAA Division II Ashland recruit. "He is a tough matchup. I thought we did a good job on him in the first half. In the second half, we knew he was going to be more aggressive. It seems like when you help off a guy, that is the guy that Brandon finds."
Norwalk limped to a 22-18 lead at halftime, but took over in the third quarter, spreading the wealth around. Austin Brown, Haraway, Garrett Chapin, and Kyler Lacy scored in succession over the first three minutes for the Truckers.
Jayden Jacobs hit a 3 for the Warriors (6-7), but it was the only field goal Ontario hit in the quarter. Later, leading 32-23, Norwalk went on another run, this time the last 11 points over the final 3:41 of the quarter.
Haraway hit a jumper before Will Gehlhausen scored. Haraway picked up assists on the final buckets of the quarter — a 3-pointer by Ryan Sowders and a bucket down low by Ian Minor — giving Norwalk a 41-23 lead after three quarters.
"We challenged the kids a little bit at halftime," Gray said. "We shot 30 percent in the first half, and I bet five or six of those shots were within five feet of the basket. We have to get stronger and we have to chin the ball and get it up on the backboard."
The Truckers did not relent much in the fourth quarter, never letting the lead slip under 16 points. It blossomed as large as 22 points on a Chapin bucket. Chapin finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
"I thought in the second half, we were much better inside," Gray said. "When we got Ontario spread out a bit, Brandon is Brandon."
The two teams battled evenly over the first part of the opening quarter before Norwalk put the clamps down defensively. An 8-2 run for the Truckers opened a 16-9 lead after eight minutes. During the run, Haraway assisted on a Chapin 3 before Sowders connected on a triple.
"We wanted to keep Haraway out of the lane," Balogh said. "That was the big emphasis. We wanted to make him a jump shooter. The assists hurt us more than anything."
Ontario did not fade away and played significantly better in the second quarter. A 3-pointer by Kolten Kurtz for the Warriors was the only points scored in the first 4:18 of the quarter before Chapin scored on an offensive rebound.
Ontario got within two points twice, but Chapin's bucket with 1:11 left in the quarter gave Norwalk a 22-18 lead at halftime.
"I thought in the first half, we were good," Balogh said. "We just did not make some shots. Norwalk becomes a hard team to come back on because (Haraway) can control the tempo of the basketball game so much."
The Warriors only went six-deep throughout the night. Griffin Shaver led Ontario with 15 points while Kurtz hit three 3s en route to 11 points.
"(Garrett) Obringer was outstanding, I thought," Gray said. "I thought Sowders and Austin were unbelievable defensively. I thought Lacy was phenomenal in the second half — his vision and his ability to rebound and finish around the rim. I thought his defense against (Jacobs) was really, really good."
Balogh (554) and Gray (425) have combined to win a whopping 979 games. The mutual respect between the two is astounding.
"Joe is a good friend of mine. He is one of the best," Gray said. "You do not name a court after a schmuck. You do not get 500 wins without being pretty good. It is always fun to compete against him."
Both coaches noted that a non-league game like this will only make both teams better down the road.
"Joe is like (Chris) Sheldon from Western Reserve," Gray said. "After the game, you know what you have to work on. They have the ability to expose any weaknesses you may have."
Norwalk shot just four free throws through three quarters before attempting 11 attempts in the fourth quarter alone. Both teams finished with nine turnovers.
In the junior varsity game, Norwalk made it a sweep with a 42-31 win. Drew Shope scored nine points and Kyler Kromer added eight for the JV Truckers (9-6).
Shaquan Coburn 3-0—7, Griffin Shaver 3-7—15, Kolten Kurtz 4-0—11, Paker VanArsdalen 2-0—5, Jayden Jacobs 2-1—6. TOTALS 14-8—44.
Brandon Haraway 7-4—19, Austin Brown 1-1—3, Garrett Chapin 6-1—14, Garrett Obringer 3-0—7, Kyler Lacy 2-2—6, Ryan Sowders 2-0—6, Will Gehlhausen 1-0—2, Ian Minor 2-1—5. TOTALS 24-9—62.
Ontario 9 9 5 21 — 44
Norwalk 16 6 19 21 — 62
3-point FGs: (O) Kurtz 3, Shaver 2, Coburn, VanArsdalen, Jacobs; (N) Sowders 2, Haraway, Chapin, Obringer
JV: Norwalk, 42-31.