Late Mansfield surge ends Norwalk's season

The Norwalk Truckers went through the regular season and two tournament games unscathed. Staff
Mar 8, 2013

The reality of the situation for a second straight year was palpable.

With so few teams in a stout field of Division I Northwest district teams, Mansfield Senior and Norwalk played a district semifinal Thursday night that had the feel of a district title or regional game.

In a back-and-forth game from start to finish, it was Mansfield getting two free throws with 2.6 seconds left to edge the Truckers by a 44-42 score at Galion High School.

Norwalk closes the year at 24-1, while the Tygers advance to Saturday's district title game and improved to 21-3.

"It was a great night. Both teams competed and played hard," Norwalk coach Steve Gray said. "They made one more play than we did. We went up five (38-33) and we weren't patient enough.

Ben Haraway put Norwalk up 36-31 on a running jumper with 7:28 left in the game, which was the biggest lead for either team up to that point.

Moments later, Jeff Thomas made it a 38-33 advantage with 6:12 left, and the Truckers got the ball back looking to go up more.

However, off a turnover, Senior got a basket from Chek Washington, then Keon Johnson showed why he is one of the top guards in Ohio.

Johnson hit a tough running jumper in traffic, then on the ensuing possession, scored again to give his team a 39-38 lead with 3:03 left.

Off a Norwalk miss in transition, Johnson then made a twisting-and-turning change of hands in mid-air while being fouled, and the basket somehow fell through the hoop with 2:21 left. He added the free throw, and suddenly the Tygers had a 42-38 lead.

But Norwalk wasn't done.

Thomas connected inside with 1:44 left and Jake Fetherolf was able to corral a Mansfield turnover to give the Truckers a chance to tie. Thomas again answered with a basket, and the game was tied with 35.4 seconds left at 42-42.

Following a timeout, Mansfield set up for one final basket. The Tygers' second-leading scorer, Donovyn Benson, was fouled going up strong to the basket with just 2.6 seconds left. He made both free throws, and the Truckers were forced to draw up a last-ditch play in a timeout.

But looking to throw a football pass deep down the floor, Norwalk's Jordan Johnson had the ball sail too high on him, and it hit a portion of the ceiling for an automatic turnover, and essentially sealed the Mansfield win.

For Norwalk, Haraway finished with 14 points, five assists and four rebounds and Thomas scored 15 points and had six rebounds.

It was a tough end for Norwalk, but Gray said it's hard to be upset considering the accomplishments his team made. Norwalk won the Northern Ohio League for a third straight season, a program first, and finished No. 2 in the Associated Press state poll. The 24 wins are also a school record, surpassing the 23 set just last season.

The Truckers take a 43-game regular season winning streak into next season, which is seven wins shy of cracking the Ohio state record book of being the eighth longest streak in state history.

Read more in Friday's Norwalk Reflector and Sandusky Register.