The score was tied in a game against a conference rival. With less than one minute on the clock.
Jiselle Thomas owned the moment — and then crowned it with heroic athleticism. The Norwalk senior bounced the ball, waiting to see what the Willard defense was giving her.
And Thomas made her move. She traveled down the sideline, then drove the baseline and played 1-on-3 basketball.
With 5.4 seconds on the clock, Thomas knocked in the layup for the 48-46 win. It was her 30th point of Saturday’s game.
“I thought that was the smart play at that point. (We) waited to get the last shot. They played a little bit bigger than what they did the first time with the post players and I didn’t want to be in the half-court set trying to defend their post players. The best option was to wait until the last shot. Obviously, Jiselle did what she does and was able to get around three people and get the layup.” Norwalk coach Brock Manlet said.
“And that’s exactly what we wanted.”
The Lady Truckers improved to 14-4 overall and 5-4 in the Northern Ohio League. The Willard Lady Flashes fell to 10-10 and 4-6.
Senior Adrianna Rodriguez grabbed eight rebounds for Norwalk.
“It was huge because we knew coming in the (Cassidy) Crawford girl was relentless on the glass and (Lydia) Wiers played really well for them too, so it was nice to have post-possessions in there that (gave us) quality boards. Every one of those is important in a game like this,” Manlet said.
“I was really impressed with the way (Rodriguez) played. That’s three back-to-back games she’s played pretty well and I hope that continues,” he added.
Wiers, a sophomore, led the Willard scoring attack with 13 points. She also pulled down seven rebounds.
Crawford, a freshman, grabbed 10 boards and handed out four assists for the Lady Flashes.
Willard led 10-4 at the end of the first quarter. Norwalk outscored the visitors in the next period, 13-9, but the Lady Flashes went into the locker room with a 19-17 advantage.
Coach Jon Dawson liked the tempo his Willard squad created in the first half.
“We had to keep the game out of the 60s. I think we did a good job of controlling the pace for the most part,” he said.
Knowing the Lady Truckers are capable of creating momentum with scoring runs, Dawson said he was pleased to see Willard answer and not let four- to six-point runs turn into 10 or 12.
“We kept getting back in the game. We kept crawling back,” he added.
Manlet saw his Norwalk team start sluggish.
“It was a long week. We spent a lot of energy on Thursday. We got off to a slow start and we didn’t shoot the ball very well,” he said.
After halftime, Thomas started taking over the game. Norwalk ended the third period up 36-34 and Thomas had scored all but 12 of the Lady Truckers’ points.
“There in the third quarter, you could tell she was beginning to take over. We were in a 1-3-1 (scheme), really trying to focus in on her and then we flipped over to a box-one,” said Dawson, who might have changed tactics earlier if he had to do it over.
“I thought Ashlee (Tuttle) did a great job on (Thomas), really trying to hold her in check,” he added.
“We tried to run at (her) at the end. We knew what was going to happen. Knowing what’s going to happen and stopping it are two different things. I said on the radio (Saturday) morning, she’s a special, special player.”
Tuttle tied the game with a three-point shot and 47 seconds left in the game.
Manlet considers it an ugly win, but he said he hopes it’s a victory on which the Lady Truckers can build for the rest of the season.
“I give the girls credit,” he said. “We did enough to win. We grounded it out. I thought our defense played pretty well there, especially in the second half.
“I thought we played exceptionally well Tuesday and Thursday. I thought we were a little tired (Saturday). Our legs were a little tired, but I think we grew up. We dug down deep and found a way to win,” Manlet added.
“We did what we had to do to get a ‘W’ and I guess that’s the most important thing,” he said. “Anytime you go 3-0 in week, I’m pretty happy with that.”
In jayvee action, Willard won 33-32. Norwalk sophomore Mascie Horner led all scorers with 10 points.
The Lady Flashes continue with NOL action Saturday when they host Ontario. Norwalk goes to Shelby in another league game Tuesday.
Follow Reflector staff writer Cary Ashby on Twitter at @Cary_reporter and on Facebook at "Cary Ashby — reporter & comic book blogger."
Willard 10 9 15 12 — 46
Norwalk 4 13 19 12 — 48
Willard: Ashlee Tuttle 2-1-6, Madie Secor 3-0-7, Crawford 4-1-9, Lydia Wiers 6-1-13, Addie Slone 1-0-2, Sidney Stevens 4-1-9 — 20-4-46
Norwalk: Bethany Craig 0-2-2, Kaelyn Harkness 1-0-3, Lauryn Maloney 1-0-2, Jasmine Thomas 3-1-7, Marly Geretz 1-0-2, Jiselle Thomas 12-5-30, Adrianna Rodriguez 1-0-2 — 19-8-48