Norwalk's boys basketball team is embarking on a grueling five-game span.
The Truckers, 7-6 overall, 3-5 in the Northern Ohio League, take on host Bellevue tonight, are at Shelby Saturday and finish it off with home games against Upper Sandusky Monday, Tiffin Columbian Feb. 13 and Mansfield Madison Feb. 14.
Not only are the Truckers going against league foes, but could see Bellevue and Columbian in the upcoming Division II Sandusky sectional tournament.
"We play these games with little or no preparation,'' Norwalk coach Steve Gray said. "A lot of success we have is what we do in practice. We'll try to take away the other teams strength offensively.''
In case you're counting, that's five games in a span of 10 days.
"We'll try to save their legs,'' Gray said. "The coaching staff will start to go back and review what you do offensively and defensively.''
Norwalk has already faced Bellevue, Shelby, Upper and Tiffin Columbian with a 1-3 combined mark.
"This is the second go around,'' Gray said. "The coaches and kids have a good feel of the opponents and what they like to do.''
The teams Norwalk are facing have fared well recently.
Bellevue has captured two straight wins, Shelby three in a row, Upper nine of 10 and Columbian five of six.
Madison, from the Ohio Cardinal Conference, is 11-2 on the season with 10 wins in its last 11 outings.
"We want to put ourselves in a position to finish as high as possible,'' Gray said. "The schedule will get us ready for the tournament. Our goal is to get back to the district.''
The Truckers are doing better, as well.
After three straight losses, including two by six points or less, Norwalk has posted the same number of wins in a row.
"We're getting a little more consistent,'' Gray said. "The kids are playing hard and defending and rebounding. That's given us a chance to put some quality wins together.
"Offensively we're trying to become more consistent and value each possession.''
The Truckers have only topped the 70-point once this season, but have also given up more than 70 once.
They've held the past four opponents to 45 points or less.
"A lot of it has to do with what we're doing on the defensive end,'' Gray said. "It takes teams a while to get off a good shot. We want to make the extra pass and get a good shot and try to break a defense down.
"We've gotten better as the year has gone on. When you're in low-scoring games, it's going to be close and we've found ways to win, which will benefit us as the season goes on and in the tournament.''
Of Norwalk's 13 games, seven have been decided by six points or less.
Balance has been a key to the Truckers' season.
Three players are averaging between 7.9 and 10.7 points per game.
Senior Adam Beat, who goes 6-foot-1, leads the team in rebounding at 4.9 per contest.
"I think Adam Beat gives us tremendous effort every single day,'' Gray said. "Jacob McKenzie has bounced back from his injury and showed a lot of improvement. (Tyson) Ringle and (Kyle) Lodermeier have given us consistent three-point shooting, Jared Cashen was out the first five or six games and he's gotten better at both ends of the floor and (Devon) Hipp and (Ty) Wells have been solid at the point-guard position.''