On paper, it had just about everything one could want.
The top two teams in the area over the past three seasons. Arguably the top three players in the area all on the same floor, and a 46-game regular season winning streak at stake.
The above is also why Perkins coach Scott McVeigh couldn't wrap his head around how his Pirates played for three quarters in a 66-59 loss at Norwalk Tuesday night.
(NOTE: To see pictures from the game, click HERE.)
The Truckers (3-0) dominated for three quarters, leading by as much as 22 points with 12-plus minutes left before the Pirates made a rally that was too late.
“The first thing I told the kids was, for the better part of three quarters, we played with no sense of urgency,” McVeigh said. “How can you not be up for this game? How can you not get ready for this game mentally? But for the better part of three quarters, we kind of went through the motions.
“Now, don't take anything away from Norwalk at all,” he added. “They are a very good team and had a lot to do with taking us out of everything we wanted to run. You look at us offensively and what we did for three quarters, and it was pretty much nothing. We were indecisive, and when you do that, good things don't happen.”
A big reason for the Pirate struggles was the performance of the area's top point guard, who has been a thorn in the side of Perkins for the past four meetings: Norwalk's Ben Haraway.
The senior Malone University commit finished with 22 points on 6-of-11 shooting to go with 11 assists and three steals. He was also 10-of-11 at the free-throw line, and through three games has scored 63 points with 19 assists and 11 steals.
“I'm trying to be more aggressive, and at the same time, I have to make sure everybody is getting involved and getting the touches they need,” Haraway said. “Coach (Steve) Gray trusts me to do both of those things, so he gives me freedom.”
Perkins held an early 10-9 lead with just under two minutes remaining in the first quarter, but Norwalk went on an 8-0 run to go up 17-10, with Haraway scoring six and Georgia State commit Jeff Thomas adding the other bucket. A three-point play by Haraway with 13.6 seconds left in the half extended the halftime lead to 29-18.
In the third quarter, Norwalk opened with a 15-4 run to open up a 44-22 lead at the 2:33 mark. Thomas, Grant Hull and Jordan Johnson strung together three baskets in a row, and Haraway punctuated the run with back-to-back baskets.
Through three quarters, Perkins had committed 19 turnovers and was 13-of-32 shooting. Two-time Sandusky Bay Conference Outstanding Performer had 11 of the team's 22 points at the Pirates largest deficit.
“We knew what was coming with that press. We knew it was coming, but didn't make the extra pass,” McVeigh said. “We had opportunities early, but we'd do something like catch the ball and fumble it off our fingers going too fast.
“Again, Norwalk has a lot to do with that,” he added. “But us taking care of the ball, there is no way we should have that many turnovers. You cut those turnovers in half, and maybe it's a different game.”
In the fourth quarter, the Pirates were able to capitalize off five Norwalk turnovers. After falling behind 57-37 with 5:56 left, the Pirates went on a 14-2 run to pull within 59-51. Eventually Perkins got within seven points (62-55), but just 52 seconds remained and Norwalk salted the game away at the foul line.
“It's us, and I don't know what the answer is right now, but we're going to get it fixed real quick,” said Gray, when asked about the fourth quarter performance. “I thought we lost concentration and became very lackadaisical with the ball. But, they're a good team and give them a lot of credit for sticking in there.
“I thought for the first three quarters, we played really well,” he added. “Defensively we pressured the ball … then we just kind of lost our concentration a little bit. But we beat a really good team. And for three quarters, I just thought we gave tremendous effort and concentration.”
McVeigh said it was just a matter of effort and intensity in the fourth quarter.
“It was nothing I said or did. It was just them going out playing and being athletes, which is what we are,” he said. “We're a good athletic team, but didn't show it for three quarters. Two things we talked about was valuing the ball and controlling the glass, and I don't think we did a good job with either.”
Norwalk was outrebounded 32-20 in the game as it continues to find a way to replace the size it lost to graduation.
“Rebounding is always going to concern me,” Gray said. “We're awful small. We have one kid over 6-foot-1 and we have to rebound by committee. If we could limit their second chance shots tonight, we thought we'd be in good shape.”
Thomas finished with 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting, while Johnson and Hull each scored eight points for the Truckers. Perkins got 26 points and 12 rebounds from Williams, and 11 points from Kyle Lewis and nine from Aleck Speer.
Perkins will visit Port Clinton Friday in SBC play, then host Perrysburg on Saturday. Meanwhile, Norwalk visits Mansfield Madison Friday and plays Wooster Saturday at the College of Wooster's Steve Smith Holiday Classic. Because of various postponements, games have been hard to come by for the Truckers.
Norwalk will not play a Northern Ohio League game until Dec. 27 at Bellevue.
“We're going to be undefeated in the NOL going into Christmas, so that's a good feeling,” Gray joked. “You know, this is a different team. We're not overpowering like we've been in the past, but I love these kids. They compete, and we're very fast. We're going to be OK.”