Norwalk would not be denied.
In a battle of the first and second ranked teams in Division II, the Truckers kicked it in gear in the second quarter and cruised to a 69-47 win over Ontario on Friday night at Norwalk High School.
Both Norwalk and Ontario finished the regular season at 21-1 overall and 11-1 in the Northern Ohio League, sharing the league title.
Norwalk’s NOL four-peat puts the Truckers in pretty rare company.
Norwalk joins Willard, which won four straight titles from 1979 to 1982, 1986 to 1989 and 2000 to 2003 and Bellevue which won or shared the league crown from 1993 to 1998.
The Truckers’ win avenged a 63-61 setback to the Warriors on Jan. 29.
Friday’s game was played at a jam-packed, sold-out NHS.
“I think we played a lot harder this time and we prepared better this week,” Norwalk coach Steve Gray said. “And, how about that Norwalk community. They truly are the sixth man.”
Norwalk was paced by senior Jeff Thomas, who scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Classmate Ben Haraway added 18 points and fellow senior Jordan Johnson netted 10.
Senior Kaleb Cashen had a big night for Norwalk, scoring eight points and added six rebounds.
“Kaleb Cashen was outstanding,” Gray said, adding Cashen provided a big, physical presence in the paint.
Norwalk led 13-12 after one quarter and extended that to 28-17 at the half.
The Truckers opened the second half on an 18-4 run to pull away to a 46-21 lead.
Ontario closed the gap to 15 in the fourth quarter, but Norwalk converted enough transitions baskets and free throws to knock off the top-ranked Warriors.
“When the kids are locked in, we’re pretty good,” Gray said.
The coach said Ontario presents all sorts of problems.
“Ontario is a great team,” he said. “They are great perimeter-shooting team and have bigs on the inside.
“Tonight, we got on a roll and it snowballed from there,” Gray said.
Thomas talked about the keys to victory.
“Tonight, we did the little things we need to do to win,” he said. “Last time, we didn’t do the little things.
“Ontario is big and we struggle against big teams and they have nice guards,” Thomas said.
Haraway said the keys were working hard in practice and having a great fan base.
“We knew we had to keep pushing the lead,” he said.
The Truckers shot 27-of-54 from the field, which included 3-of-7 from three-point range.
Norwalk was 12-of-19 at the free-throw line, grabbed 29 rebounds and had 12 turnovers.
Ontario was paced by senior Cameron Mack’s 21 points and eight rebounds.
Paul Homan added seven points for the visitors.
“I think Norwalk defended well,” Ontario coach Joe Balogh said. “Also, in the first half they had four offensive rebounds they stuck back. Take that away or split that and you have a three- or seven-point game.”
Balogh said there’s no reason to panic.
“We’ll be fine,” he said. “Our kids fought and cut it to 15 a couple times, but when you pressure a good team you’re going to give up some easy baskets.”
Balogh said Norwalk’s set plays on offense hurt.
“That’s the first time this year we let a team get a good look from their first set,” the coach said. “We were just a half step slow.
“This team (Norwalk) has lost just one game in 3 1/2 years,” Balogh said. “We got beat by a very good basketball team.”
Ontario shot 16-of-48 from the field, including 3-of-14 threes.
The Warriors hit 12-of-16 free throws, had 20 rebounds and 20 turnovers.
Norwalk won the jayvee game, 50-36.
Travis Cring and Jaycee Jordan each scored 16 points for the hosts. Seth Staley added eight for Norwalk.
Norwalk opens Divison II sectional play at 8 p.m. Tuesday against Galion at Bucyrus High School.
Mack 8-4-21, Boatwright 1-2-4, Wagner 2-0-5, Shelby 2-2-6, Plieninger 0-2-2, Garverick 1-0-2, Homan 2-2-7. Totals 16-12-47.
Thomas 8-2-19, Hull 1-2-5, Haraway 5-7-18, Johnson 5-0-10, Cashen 4-0-8, Turner 1-0-2, Hinckley 2-0-4, MacFarland 1-1-3. Totals 27-12-69.
Ontario 12 5 11 19 — 47
Norwalk 13 15 22 19 — 69