Neither Norwalk or Ontario was able to budge each other during Wednesday’s Division II district semifinal at Mansfield Madison.
But on a night where several key players struggled, Norwalk coach Steve Gray still rode his horse to the finish line. Brandon Haraway made a driving basket to at the buzzer to force a second overtime — then helped the Truckers down the stretch in a third overtime of a 52-48 victory to survive and advance.
With the win, the state-ranked Truckers (22-3) advance to Saturday’s 2 p.m. district championship game vs. Vermilion (19-5) back at Madison High School.
Norwalk — the No. 1 seed in the district and ranked No. 14 in the final Associated Press state poll — had lost a 12-point halftime lead.
Ontario’s Shaquan Coburn was at the free-throw line up 34-32 with 8.4 seconds left in the first overtime. Haraway had lost the ball on a turnover and the Truckers were forced to foul.
But Coburn — an 88-percent foul shooter who was 10-of-12 at the line on Wednesday — missed the foul shot. Haraway skied for the rebound — then drove the length of the floor right through the heart of the Ontario defense for the game-tying basket just before the horn sounded.
“Sometimes you get lucky, and that’s what happened when they missed the foul shot,” Haraway said. “I got it and just went to the rim — and no one really tried to stop me and I was able to finish.”
In the second overtime, Ontario went up 37-36 with 2:32 left — as Coburn made a circus shot and was fouled, then made his free throw attempt. But then Garrett Obringer made his only field goal of the game, a 3-pointer to put Norwalk up 39-37 at the 2:04 mark.
“Even though I wasn’t scoring all night, I still had confidence in myself that I was going to make that shot,” Obringer said. “It was a fun, but exhausting game.”
Ontario tied it at 39, then Norwalk dribbled out the final minute-plus. But with 2.3 seconds left, Austin Brown’s baseline shot was off the mark, and it went to a third overtime.
Obringer opened with two foul shots, then after an Ontario miss, Garrett Chapin got a rebound and was fouled. He also made both free throws for a 43-39 lead with 2:51 left — but it was still far from over.
Jayden Price hit his only shot of the game for the Warriors (16-9) — a 3-pointer that cut the deficit to 43-42 with 2:16 left. Haraway then split two foul shots, then after an Ontario miss, again drove in strong for a layup and a 46-42 lead with 1:17 left.
Chapin made it 48-42 on two foul shots with 47.6 seconds to go — but again the Warriors got a 3-pointer, this time from Coburn with 36.9 left to make it a 48-45 deficit.
Haraway made two foul shots with 28.5 seconds left, but Coburn was fouled on a three attempt and made them all for a 50-48 deficit with 21.3 seconds to go.
Finally, Haraway was fouled with 14 seconds left and made both. Though he had a chance to put it away further with 2.7 seconds left, the Truckers were up two possessions and had survived a for the 52-48 win.
“We’re very fortunate,” Norwalk coach Steve Gray said. “But like (assistant) Coach (Tom) Foster said after the game, you either have characters on you’re team, or people with character. And I think we have kids with character.
“Our offense was so stagnant. We just stood around,” he added. “Part of it was our fault, and part of that was Ontario’s defense. I didn’t think they would be able to shut us down like that, but they did a great job. But … win and advance, and we get to play Saturday.”
Norwalk had the game in complete control for two-plus quarters. It led 24-12 at halftime, and even after a two-point third quarter, led 26-21 entering the fourth.
But after two Haraway missed free throws, the Warriors tied it with exactly one minute left.
Haraway was then whistled for his fourth foul, an offensive foul on a drive to the rim with 3.6 seconds left in regulation. He then played with four fouls for all three overtimes.
It was a very uncharacteristic night for the Norwalk senior and NCAA Div. II Ashland University recruit. He was just 3-of-14 from the floor and 14-of-23 at the free-throw line — but still finished with 20 points, six rebounds, three assists and four steals.
“When you have a pony, you ride him,” Gray said of Haraway. “He’s carried us for most of the year, and I told him toward the end of regulation to hang in there and trust your teammates, and whatever happens — you’ve brought a lot of smiles to a lot of people.
“I think he got mad at himself, but here is the sad part,” Gray added. “He’s had a great career. One of the best we’ve ever had. I just think he had the weight of the world on his shoulders there for awhile. He was very emotional, and high school sports is big in both the Norwalk and Ontario communities … it’s just too bad kids have to feel that type of pressure sometimes.”
Chapin had a big performance with 13 points and 17 rebounds for the Truckers. Kyler Lacy added five points, eight rebound and two blocks, and Ryan Sowders had four steals on defense.
“They got in foul trouble and I think we just hung in there,” Gray said. “Chapin and Obringer hit some big free throws, and when we had to, we got stops.”
Meanwhile, Haraway was extra appreciative of his supporting cast on a night he moved into fifth all-time in season and career points at Norwalk.
“We kind of dominated the first half, but after that we just battled adversity all night,” he said. “Me personally, I wasn’t doing my best, but my teammates really stepped it up. This is the time everyone has to step up, and we got the win — and for that I’m just thankful.”
Shaquan Coburn 5-14—26; Griffin Shaver 2-0—5; Jayden Jacobs 4-1—9; Ethan Keller 1-0—2; Parker VanArnsdalen 1-1—3; Jayden Price 1-0—3. TOTALS 14-16—48.
Brandon Haraway 3-14—20; Garrett Chapin 4-4—13; Kyler Lacy 1-3—5; Garrett Obringer 1-2—5; Ryan Sowders 2-1—5; Austin Brown 2-0—4. TOTALS 13-24—52.
Ontario 6 6 9 11 2 5 9 — 48
Norwalk 11 13 2 6 2 5 13 — 52
3-point FGs: (O) Coburn 2, Shaver, Keller; (N) Chapin, Obringer