The Norwalk boys basketball team was leading 55-48 with 1:15 left in Tuesday’s non-league game at Shelby.
And yet when a full-court heave with under two seconds left resulted in an agonizingly-close miss — the Truckers walked off the court with a 57-55 setback after the Whippets closed the game on a 9-0 run.
Norwalk (1-1) committed 24 turnovers in the 32 minutes, and came away with several empty possessions in the final minute that proved too costly against the Whippets’ (3-0) pressure defense.
“We just weren’t mentally strong enough to finish the game off,” Norwalk coach Steve Gray said. “I don’t question their effort, their desire … but sometimes you just have to be mentally tough with the ball.
“The mistakes we made in the last 90 seconds are correctable,” he added. “But we just had way too many breakdowns on both ends of the floor in that stretch.”
When the Truckers took the lead at the 6:54 mark of the second quarter, they had the lead all the way until just 1.6 seconds remained in the game.
A basket by Garrett Obringe put the Truckers up 55-48 with 1:15 left. But just 13 seconds later, Shelby’s Jonny DeVito hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to pull his team back to within 55-51.
The Truckers then couldn’t get the ball back in play on the ensuing inbounds pass, and standout TJ Pugh was there to steal it and lay it in for a 55-53 deficit with 50.2 seconds left.
After a turnover once again at the Norwalk basket, the Whippets got the ball back and got a short jumper from Cody Lantz with 19.4 seconds left. And with a faster pace and defensive pressure, the Truckers again turned it over in their own backcourt with 14.6 seconds left.
“Shelby had the ability to turn up the pressure,” Gray said. “They were a desperate team and were flying at the ball.”
That set up Lantz for a short basket that he banked in with 1.6 seconds left for the 57-55 lead.
Out of a timeout, the Truckers got a deep pass to around the free-throw line that Garrett Chapin caught. He turned around and was able to get a tough shot off as time expired, but the ball rolled off for a miss.
On top of the turnovers, Gray felt like his team rushed a few shots over the final four-plus minutes of the game that didn’t help their cause.
“Our shot selection wasn’t great,” he said. “These kids have to learn time and score. We didn’t do a good enough job with that. There was a certain time of the game where a wide open 15-footer is not a good shot.
“In that situation, we want a layup or get to the free throw line.” he added. “But in the whole scope of things, tonight’s game is a great learning experience.”
In the first half, Chapin was dominant in leading the Truckers to a 30-21 lead at the break. He scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in about 15 minutes of playing time.
That included a stretch in the second quarter where he scored 13 of his team’s 17 points in a 6:34 stretch.
“Garrett’s ability to get the ball off the glass tonight was tremendous,” Gray said of the 6-foot-4 junior, who finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Chapin picked up his third foul at the 5:48 mark of the third quarter with the Truckers leading 37-25. He sat the rest of the quarter, and Norwalk was able to stem the tide mostly by taking a 48-39 lead into the final quarter as Ryan Sowders scored and Garrett Obringer each scored seven points with Chapin on the bench.
But with 6:08 left in the game, Chapin picked up his fourth foul and again had to be careful to not foul out at both ends of the floor.
After Obringer put the Truckers up 50-40 with 5:05 left, but had just two field goals the rest of the way.
Obringer added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Truckers, while Sowders scored nine points with three assists.
Norwalk will entertain Perkins on Friday in the first SBC Lake Division game of the season. It then has Keystone in a non-league game on Saturday.
“We have to get our legs back,” Gray said. “We played really hard. But we’re a young team in a lot of ways, and this was a tough learning experience for a lot of these kids.”
It was also a tough, close loss for the junior varsity team, which lost 45-43 and had a look at a game-tying shot in the final seconds.
Caleb Sommers scored 22 of the team’s 43 points, with Nate LaRoche adding nine.
Garrett Chapin 6-7—20; Garrett Obringer 6-0—14; Will Gehlhausen 1-0—2; Kyler Lacy 2-1—5; Ryan Sowders 4-0—9; Andrew Mozina 0-1—1. TOTALS 20-9—55.
TJ Pugh 4-2—10; Grant Gossom 2-2—6; Cody Lantz 7-2—16; Darian Miller 3-0—6; Jonny DeVito 2-2—8; Jackson Lewis 1-0—3; Jeremy Holloway 3-0—6, Parker Lewis 1-0—3. TOTALS 24-8—57.
Norwalk 10 20 18 7 — 55
Shelby. 14. 7 18 18 — 57
3-point FGs: (N) Obringer 2, Sowders, Chapin; (S) Lantz, DeVito, L