Norwalk senior standout Brandon Haraway’s fundamentals at the free-throw line were failing him — and he was running out of time to get them back.
The Truckers had been in control throughout Friday’s huge non-league showdown at Lexington, but suddenly found themselves in a tie game with 13.5 seconds left.
Haraway then slashed to the lane and was knocked down and fouled with eight seconds left. He missed the first free throw — his fourth errant foul shot after making seven of his first eight attempts.
But he relaxed and made the second, and Lexington star Cade Stover’s last-ditch 3-pointer was off the mark as the Truckers escaped with a 46-45 win.
Norwalk (15-2) has won 13 straight games, and coupled with the head-to-head win, and Vermilion’s (16-3) loss vs. Willard, may have earned the No. 1 seed at Sunday’s Division II Madison district draw.
“You just have to stay as focused as you can,” Haraway said of his late struggles at the line. “I had to go back to what I know, which was making sure my fundamentals were down and getting my feet squared to the basket.
“That’s why I was missing them all. I had to get my feet square and follow through,” he added.
Haraway finished the game with 23 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals in the win. Ironically, he was 0-of-10 shooting from inside the three-point line — but 5-of-8 from behind it.
Haraway put Norwalk up 44-38 with 2:09 left, and that is where things became a struggle.
Unable to put the Minutemen (13-4) away, Garrett Chapin split two foul shots with 47.6 seconds left for a 45-43 lead. Haraway then came through with a huge blocked shot from Stover, and Chapin was fouled with 37.2 seconds to go.
But the junior missed both free throws, and Stover was fouled with 18.4 seconds remaining and made both foul shots to tie the game at 45.
That set up the final sequence, with Norwalk again surviving to keep the win streak alive.
“And here is the exciting thing for us … we didn’t play our best game,” Norwalk coach Steve Gray said. “On every scouting report before each game, we put ‘find a way to win.’ We didn’t shoot free throws well. We didn’t take care of the ball well in the second half — but we found a way to win. That is what this team is all about.
Norwalk led 15-13 after one quarter, and were up 28-25 and attempting to get a final shot off in the first half when the ball kicked out to Haraway. The Div. II Ashland University recruit pulled up and banked in a deep 3-pointer at the buzzer to put the Truckers up 31-25 at the half.
“Sometimes you just get lucky, and It was a lucky shot,” Haraway said. “But it gave us some momentum that we needed going into half.”
The third quarter proved to be a struggle for both teams, but despite the Truckers only scoring five points in the eight minutes, they still took a 36-33 lead into the fourth quarter.
Per usual with the Truckers, it goes back to defense. Norwalk has only allowed more than 50 points in a game just four times in 17 games this season.
“Lexington is a very good team, and Stover is even better than I thought,” Gray said. “ Brandon was great, and defensively we were solid. We were very fortunate tonight.
“I’ve said it over and over, but my assistants do a great job with our defense,” he added. “They pay so much attention to detail, and I give them a lot of credit for what they do with these kids.”
Gray was especially proud of the defense on the final play. An easy look or a foul gives Lexington a chance to steal the win.
“They got it to Stover and ran a pick for him, but Brandon was able to jump out on him and force him back, which is what we worked on,” he said. “Brandon was just good at both ends, but if you go right down the line, everyone contributed. This was a team effort.”
Chapin added eight points and nine rebounds for Norwalk, while Ryan Sowders had five points and five rebounds.
Stover, who in December was named Ohio’s Mr. Football and is headed to Ohio State University in the fall, finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds, which were his averages coming in.
“Our goal was to run two people at him all of the time,” Gray said of Stover. “I thought (Kyler) Lacy was really strong, but Stover is a beast. Lacy did a good job, and Ian (Minor) came in and gave us a solid 10 minutes — but they were 10 minutes we needed to have.”
Friday’s win was the first of a tough four-game stretch for the Truckers, who visit Northwestern (14-4) tonight. The Huskies sit atop the Wayne County Athletic League.
Haraway said Friday’s win was exciting, but it’s on to the next.
“It’s hard work in practice and the way we push each other to make ourselves better,” Haraway said of the close win. “(Assistant) Coach (Tom) Foster says to get better by one percent every day, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
In the junior varsity game, Norwalk fell to 10-7 with a 42-32 loss. Andrew Mozina had nine points and nine rebounds in the defeat.
Brandon Haraway 5-8—23; Ryan Sowders 2-0—5; Will Gehlhausen 1-0—3; Garrett Chapin 2-4—8; Garrett Obringer 1-0—2; Kyler Lacy 2-1—5. TOTALS 13-13—46.
Kyle Johnston 0-2—2; Jacob Depperschmidt 2-0—6; Ben Vore 3-0—6; Josh Aiello 3-2—8; Nick Stehle 1-0—2; Cade Stover 7-6—21. TOTALS 16-10—45.
Norwalk 15 16 5 10 — 46
Lexington 13 12 8 12 — 45
3-point FGs: (N) Haraway 5, Sowders, Gehlhausen, (L) Depperschmidt 2, Stover
JV: Lexington, 42-32