But the Truckers made sure that included the final 26 seconds of Tuesday's SBC Lake Division game against visiting Tiffin Columbian.
In a game they trailed by 10 with 3:16 left in the third quarter, the Truckers rallied from a 45-42 deficit with 1:15 left to come away with a 47-46 victory at Norwalk High School. A turnover by the Tornadoes resulted in a driving layup by freshman Brooklyn Davis — for her only two points of the game — with 26 seconds left for the game-winning points.
"That last minute-plus we finally started to play defense," Norwalk coach Brock Manlet said. "We were reading passes and getting into their passing lanes to create turnovers, which led to some easy baskets. We kind of switched out lineup a little bit and had some more speed on the floor. We do a lot of situational work in practice, and I think that paid off here.
"Down the stretch, I thought we were the calmer and more relaxed team, and we were able to find a way," he added. "The kids just gutted it out. It wasn't a perfect game by any means, but they just found a way."
With the win, Norwalk improved to 6-6 overall and 2-4 in the Lake. Columbian fell to 3-7 (0-6).
Both teams struggled to take care of the basketball, as Columbian finished with 23 turnovers and Norwalk had 29.
But perhaps most telling in erasing the 10-point deficit, the Truckers also shot just 8-of-49 (16 percent) from inside the three-point line — but connected on 7-of-15 (46 percent) from deep to help keep them in the game.
That proved true in the final minute of the third quarter, as back-to-back 3s from Olivia Ward and Alex Nolan trimmed the margin to 32-29. Janel Jubak then connected on a triple to open the fourth quarter and tie the game at 32.
When Ward made a pair of foul shots with 7:10 left, it marked Norwalk's first lead of the game. It lasted just nine seconds.
The Tornadoes answered with four straight free throws from Serena Ingalls and Brook Boes for a 36-34 lead with 6:48 left. Then, in less than a minute action, Jubak (4:41) and Ward (3:49) sandwiched long-range threes around a triple from Columbian's Hailey Cooper, leaving the Truckers up 41-40.
With the game tied at 42 and just over two minutes left, Ingalls then drove to the rim and was fouled. She converted the basket and followed up at the free-throw line, where she was 9-of-13 on her way to a team-high 18 points.
That put Columbian up 45-42 with 1:15 left, only to see Ward connect on her fourth 3-pointer of the game with 54.8 seconds left to tie the game once again.
Ingalls was fouled with 40.4 seconds left and split the free throws. The Truckers then turned it over with a 46-45 deficit, but got it right back to set up the driving basket by Davis for the game-winning points.
After another Columbian turnover, Nolan was fouled with 3.9 seconds left. She missed the first, and intentionally meant to miss the second, but it hit just the backboard. That gave the Tornadoes possession from under their own basket with no time running off — but they were unable to get a shot off at the other end as the buzzer sounded.
"That's been our story all year long, we've done that all season," Manlet said of the three-point shooting compared to inside the paint. "Janel hit a couple big ones late, Liv (Ward) did as well. It wasn't perfect, but we made shots when we had to.
"I think part of it is our guards struggle against height when we go inside," he added. "We struggle to get a shot off inside, as our posts for the most part are undersized. I think for us it's easier to shoot a three where we have some room between us and the defender as opposed to a contested inside shot. I think that's part of it. But we have to get better skill-wise around the basket."
Ward had a game-high 19 points to go with four rebounds and five steals for the Truckers. Elena Barber added 11 points , while Nolan had six points and three steals and Jubak added six points. Davis also had four steals for Norwalk, which entertains Clyde (6-4, 3-1) on Saturday.
“I think we didn’t play great defense at the end,” Columbian coach Amy Cooper said of the fourth quarter. “We gave up four threes in the fourth quarter, and we just didn’t get in their faces or influence their shots enough at the end.”
Norwalk also pulled out a close game in the junior varsity match, as Kylie Moser scored seven points in the 29-27 win.
Norwalk lost at Clyde earlier this season by a 52-43 score.
"We have a chance against a team similar to us," Manlet said. "A lot of us are similar, Tiffin and Clyde just played a close one with Clyde winning at the buzzer. For us to not play a great game and come out with a win, knowing Tiffin played them tough and so did we the first time — I think it gives us some confidence that we can compete on Saturday."
COLUMBIAN (3-7, 0-6)
Serena Ingalls 4-9—18; Lizzie Newland 1-2—4; Hailey Cooper 1-0—3; Tatiyana Dines 3-1—7; Brook Boes 2-10—14. TOTALS 11-22—46.
NORWALK (6-6, 2-4)
Alex Nolan 1-3—6; Olivia Ward 6-3—19; Elena Barber 4-3—11; Janel Jubak 2-0—6; Brooklyn Davis 1-0—2; Kayla Cring 1-1—3. TOTALS 15-10—47.
Columbian 9 11 12 14 — 46
Norwalk 7 9 13 18 — 47
3-point FGs: (TC) S. Ignalls, Cooper; (N) Ward 4, Jubak 2, Nolan
JV: Norwalk, 29-27