It didn’t look like that was going to be the case midway through the second quarter of Thursday’s Division II regional semifinal vs. Columbus South.
But the Truckers battled back, briefly had the lead — and were within one possession in the final minute of a 61-54 loss at the Stroh Center on the campus of Bowling Green State University.
Norwalk — ranked No. 14 in the final Associated Press state poll — closed the season with a 23-4 record, while No. 2-ranked South (26-1) advanced to Saturday’s regional title game.
“It was a great game and both teams competed and played hard without any issues,” Norwalk coach Steve Gray said. “I thought we played exceptionally hard, and give credit to South for making the plays at the end.”
After an 8-0 run brought Norwalk to within three (28-25) at halftime, the Truckers kept the momentum midway through the third quarter.
After a Brandon Haraway basket made it a 30-27 deficit for the Truckers, Garrett Chapin — who had the best game of his young career — kept his hot hand. He made two free throws at the 6:32 mark, then after a defensive stop, drilled a left corner 3-pointer to bring the Norwalk fan base to its feet.
The shot gave the Truckers their first lead (32-30) since the opening basket of the game. South tied it on a pair of foul shots at the 4:59 mark, but then Haraway got to the rim to grab the lead back.
Following a South miss, Garrett Obringer was then fouled at the 4:08 mark. The junior made both free throws, and suddenly the Truckers had a 36-32 lead.
But a lengthy scoring drought, coupled with South cashing in on offensive rebounds, swung the momentum back.
The Bulldogs scored the next eight points before Chapin ended the drought with a free throw with 56 seconds left in the third. That gave the Truckers a 40-37 deficit entering the final eight minutes.
It then appeared South was going to put the Truckers away.
The Bulldogs continued to attack the rim, and scored the first four points of the final quarter for a 44-37 lead. Eventually, South pushed the lead up to 49-38 with 3:10 left — but then Norwalk went to a fouling strategy to get back in the game.
And it worked.
“With a little under four minutes to go and they were up 11, we only had three team fouls,” Gray said. “We wanted to get to the bonus as soon as possible.
“But we did some things on the fly tonight because we have a really smart team. They are so coachable. We had a chance because of that.”
Haraway scored 10 seconds after the 11-point deficit, then Chapin added a basket after South missed the front end of a one-and-one foul shot. Down 50-42, Chapin then made his third 3 of the night to give the Truckers life at 50-45 with 2:15 remaining.
It was a 56-49 deficit with 1:09 left — but again the Truckers took another big run at the deficit.
Austin Brown made two free throws with 54.9 seconds to go, then South split a pair. Obringer then rose up and sank a huge 3-pointer with 40.2 seconds left, and just like that, Norwalk was within 57-54 as South called timeout to regroup.
“We were just fighting and we had to stick to the defense we’ve played all season,” Haraway said. “Sometimes they are going to hit their shots, but we started getting our stops more consistently toward the end of the game, and started getting our key baskets.”
South was then whistled for a traveling violation, and with 28.2 seconds left, the Truckers had the ball down one possession. Haraway then drove to his right and straight to the rim, but South’s Trevell Adams, who had 22 points off the bench, came up with a huge block.
Still, Norwalk got the ball back after a missed foul shot, but turned it over. The Bulldogs then made four foul shots down the stretch for the final margin.
“We knew they were going after Brandon, and it just took us too long to adjust,” Gray said. “When it’s a three-point game with 30 seconds to go, you look back to the missed plays in the first quarter. We didn’t get to our spots quick enough, but that’s high school sports.”
Norwalk found itself down 16-8 after one quarter, then after it fell behind 22-10 early in the second — had a brief run to pull within 24-17 on a Haraway basket at the 4:37 mark.
But South scored back-to-back baskets, only for Chapin to give the Truckers life.
Down 28-17, Chapin converted a three-point play at the 3:30 mark, then was fouled with 2:14 left in the half and made both foul shots. Norwalk again got a defensive stop, and Chapin kept the hot hand with a 3-pointer with 25.8 seconds left in the quarter to bring the Truckers within 28-25 at halftime.
As a sophomore, Chapin finished the game with 25 points and 15 rebounds on 8-of-12 shooting.
In the final game of his career, Haraway finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. His 1,179 career points and 522 single-season points both rank fifth all-time in program history. Brown is the other senior on the team.
“What a privilege to coach Haraway,” Gray said. “We had some bumps in the road there with Brandon when he was younger, but by his senior year he bought in — and I couldn’t be more proud of him.
“Austin and Brandon gave it everything they had, not just tonight, but to get us here,” he added. “And because of that, we had a chance.”
Brandon Haraway 5-4—14; Austin Brown 1-2—4; Garrett Chapin 8-6—25; Garrett Obringer 2-4—9; Kyler Lacy 0-2—2. TOTALS 16-18—54.
COLUMBUS SOUTH (26-1)
Ta’Quan Simington 6-3—15; Treohn Watkins 1-2—4; Alvin Byrd 2-0—4; Marcus Johnson 4-3—11; Samual Barton 2-1—5; Trevell Adams 8-6—22. TOTALS 23-15—61.
Norwalk 8 17 12 17 — 54
C. South 16 12 12 21 — 61
3-point FGs: (N) Chapin 3, Obringer