And the Lady Truckers accomplished it in decisive fashion at the MAC. Norwalk (18-5) blasted Clear Fork 69-26 in the Northwest District Div. II sectional.
“I’m excited. I’m excited we broke our record tonight,” said senior Jiselle Thomas, who has started all four years. “It’s big. It’s really big.”
The No. 4-ranked Norwalk advances to the Div. II sectional semifinal against Upper Sandusky (No. 2) at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Monroeville Athletic Complex.
Many of the Lady Truckers such as Thomas and fellow senior Adrianna Rodriguez knew before Wednesday’s game that they had to break the previous program mark of 17 wins in a season.
“We definitely had something to play for. That sets us up for a big game on Saturday (and) we gotta get ready,” Norwalk coach Brock Manlet said.
“It was one of those games where everyone was feeling good and everyone was cheering for one another.”
The visiting Norwalk team led 9-5 with 5:17 in the first quarter. Thanks to some steals, the newly energized Lady Truckers turned it around, finishing the period with a 20-12 advantage.
“I thought we were a little sluggish in the first quarter, especially with our traps and our rotations … and then we just woke up a little bit and we got more aggressive. We changed our press a little bit and started getting steals and our confidence got up,” Manlet said.
“Once we get a couple steals, we feed off that,” the coach added. “We don’t want to be a half-court team and for our offense to get going, we have to get steals and get easy baskets. And that’s the key. We started doing that in the second quarter and it was good after that.”
Thomas scored 11 of her 26 total points in the first quarter. She shot 61 percent from the field.
She also grabbed six rebounds and distributed five steals. Thomas said she exploited the holes she saw in Clear Fork’s defense, which helped get her rolling early.
“I think the steals helped (the team) a lot. Everybody was in it when we got the steals,” she added.
The Lady Colts scored a layup with about 45 seconds left in the second quarter, which ended a 21-0 Norwalk run. The Lady Truckers went into the break with a 43-14 lead.
Norwalk went on a 11-0 run in the third quarter. Clear Fork’s three-pointer made it 54-17 with 3:35 on the clock.
Manlet pulled all his starters about halfway through the third period, which ended with a 62-18 Norwalk lead.
“At that point, I felt it was the smartest thing to do. I didn’t want to (be) up by 40 and have someone sprain an ankle,” said Manlet, who was pleased with the way his reserves played. “They played hard. It was good all the way through.”
The Lady Truckers were deep in the bench with about 5 minutes left in the game, giving the reserves significant playing time. Everyone on the team saw action.
“They did really good. Our passing was really good too. They were hitting their shots, so that helped a lot too,” Thomas said.
After being outscored 23-2 in the second period and 19-4 in the next quarter, Clear Fork ended the game with a 8-7 advantage in the final minutes.
On to Upper
Manlet knows his team has a tough opponent in Upper Sandusky.
“They’re very good — no doubt about it. They have a lot of great kids. They can shoot the ball. Very aggressive. We’re going to have our hands full defensively,” he said.
“We’ve got two days to prepare and hopefully we’re ready to go.”
Follow Reflector staff writer Cary Ashby on Twitter at @Cary_reporter and on Facebook at “Cary Ashby — reporter & comic book blogger.”
Norwalk 20 23 19 7 — 69
Clear Fork 12 2 4 8 — 26
Norwalk: Bethany Cring 2-0-4, Kaelyn Harkness 3-0-8, Jada Thomas 1-2-4, Jasmine Thomas 4-0-8, Marly Geretz 2-1-5, Jiselle Thomas 11-2-26, Celia Case 3-0-7, Leah Malson 0-2-2, Mya Ray 1-0-2, Mascie Horner 1-1-2 — 28-8-69
Clear Fork: Valerie Golden 2-0-4, Tabi Hamilton 1-2-4, Darian Gottfriend 2-0-6, Erika Robinson 1-0-2, Carson Crowner 1-1-3, Reagan Marhsall 1-0-4, Whitney Snavely 0-1-1, Macy Wade 1-0-3 — 9-4-26