COLUMBUS — Second-ranked Norwalk claimed their first OHSAA boys basketball championship in school history, holding off a late rally by defending state champion Columbus Bishop Watterson to win the Division II state title with a 65-58 win over the Eagles on Saturday in Value City Arena at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus.
The Truckers (29-1), who came two points away from an undefeated season, earned 29 points from senior guard Ben Haraway, a Malone commit, and 18 points and 10 rebounds from first team all-Ohio performer Jeff Thomas in the victory. After trailing 14-12 late in the first quarter, Norwalk rattled off eight straight points to end the stanza, aided by two high-flying Thomas dunks and an acrobatic layup from Haraway.
“Our first-half ball movement and our court reversal was outstanding,” explained Norwalk head coach Steve Gray.”
Noted Haraway: “We knew in the postseason teams would be able to handle our pressure, so you have to sit down and defend and we did a good job at that.”
The run continued into halftime, as the Trucker defense held a Watterson squad to 6-of-25 shooting in the first half on their way to a 31-19 advantage.
Watterson (26-3), looking for a repeat as state champions after winning in their first-ever trip a year ago, shot just 33 percent (19-of-57) from the field for the game. The Eagles cut the Norwalk lead to as little as four after a Matt Hughes layup made the score 61-57 with 52 seconds in regulation, but four Haraway free throws sealed the deal for the Truckers.
“They did a good job attacking our zone,” lamented Watterson coach Vince Lombardo. “We spent the rest of the game battling back. That run in the first half ultimately was why we lost.”
Hughes led the way for Watterson in his final game, scoring 23 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, while classmates Cody Calhoun and Matt Lehmann chipped in 15 and 11 markers, respectively.