Norwalk dominated the host Arrows for the first 24 minutes and led 46-31 going into the fourth and looked to cruise to their seventh win in a row. But things went a little haywire as Ashland got hot from the field and closed the gap to within single-digits, falling to the Truckers by a 64-56 score.
“I thought that in the first half that our defense was really, really good with our communication and the way we defended them. I was just very pleased,” Norwalk coach Steve Gray said. “Then in the second half we sort of stopped moving our feet — and we knew that Ashland was going to make a run. They are very talented, and once they got in attack mode, we had trouble containing them.
“We just got disorganized and maybe we thought the game was over,” he added. “But, (Garrett) Denbow is a good player and I think Coach (Jason) Hess has done a great job with them. They are much improved over the last few years.”
There was too much Brandon Haraway for Ashland to overcome, as he finished with arguably the best stat line of his career.
He scored 33 points on 11-of-17 shooting from the field, and 11-of-13 from the free-throw line. Haraway added 11 rebounds, four assists and four steals to give the home crowd a preview of what they can expect when he plays games a few blocks down the street next season for NCAA Division II Ashland University.
The Arrows tried countering Haraway with Denbow, who finished the game with 25 points and did his part to create fireworks in the fourth as he and Haraway traded buckets. Norwalk’s star got the better of that contest too, outscoring Denbow in the final quarter, 14-9.
“The people of Ashland are really going to enjoy Brandon the next four years; he is going to be a really good player at Ashland University,” Gray said. “The difference is that he is a 6-foot-2, 185-pound point guard. How many teams have that luxury, and how many teams have somebody who can guard him 30 feet from the basket?”
Haraway said that a lot of hard work goes into his game, and that what appears to come easy to some requires a lot of work.
“It just shows all the hard work that my team and I put into it, it’s not easy, it’s a grind,” Haraway said. “This is a push in the right direction and just shows what we can do. But Garrett (Denbow) and I are good friends and have grown up competing against each other since sixth and seventh grades. He has really pushed me to get better.”
Norwalk shot an impressive 61 percent (22-of-36) on shots from inside the three-point line and 85 percent (17-of-20) from the free-throw line. Ashland shot just 31 percent from the field and made just 6 of 25 threes, more than double than the Truckers attempts from deep.
Garrett Obringer added eight points and nine rebounds for Norwalk, while Garrett Chapin also scored eight points and pulled down five rebounds and added a blocked shot. Ian Minor contributed six points and four rebounds for the Truckers.
In the junior varsity game, Norwalk also cruised to a 66-42 victory for the sweep. Andrew Mozina had 15 points and nine rebounds on 6-of-8 shooting, with Justin Sommers adding 15 points and five steals on 5-of-8 shooting. Daniel Traczek made all six shots he took for 13 points.
Norwalk visits Tiffin Columbian (1-9, 0-5) on Tuesday in a rare weeknight SBC Lake Division game. The Truckers, tied with Clyde and Sandusky in first place, beat the Tornadoes by a 54-42 score back on Dec. 7.
Norwalk then has a huge rematch at home on Friday with the Fliers. On Dec. 14, the Truckers let a sizable lead in the fourth quarter slip away, and fell to the Fliers 61-60 for their lone setback since the season opener at Huron.
With seven straight wins, Gray is happy with how his team is playing. He talked about what it will take to keep the win streak alive this week against the Tornadoes and Fliers.
“There are a lot of things that contribute to that (the win streak), and I don’t care what school you are, when you have kids that play football on your team it takes about a month or so to get your body back into basketball shape,” Gray said. “We have great kids, they work hard in practice and they are starting to see the fruits of their labor.
“It’s easy to lose focus against Columbian, but we are getting everyone’s best effort, he added. “Let’s get past Columbian first, but we play well at home, and it should be a good matchup with Clyde.”
Brandon Haraway 11-11—33; Garrett Obringer 2-4—8; Garrett Chapin 4-0—8; Kyler Lacy 1-0—2; Austin Brown 1-2—4; Ryan Sowders 1-1—3; Ian Minor 3-0—6. TOTALS 23-17—64.
Kleijhan Randleman 2-0—4; Garrett Denbow 9-6—25; Luke Denbow 3-1—8; Mitchell Heilman 2-2—8; Eli White 1-2—5; Nathan Mohney 1-0—3; Sam Zickefoose. 1-1—3. TOTALS 19-12—56
Norwalk 18 13 15 18 — 64
Ashland 13 8 10 25 — 56
3-point FGs: (N) Sowders; (A) Heilman 2, Garrett Denbow, Luke Denbow, White, Mohney.
JV: Norwalk, 66-42