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Showdown set: Norwalk handles Columbian; will play for league title Thursday

By JOSH MORGRET • Updated Feb 12, 2018 at 10:39 PM

TIFFIN — When Norwalk lost to Bellevue (51-36) on Jan. 9, it faced a tough road ahead to have another shot at the Lady Red with something on the line.

Now, the Truckers will have a chance at splitting the Sandusky Bay Conference Lake division with the Lady Red.

Kaelyn Harkness hit four 3-pointers and scored 16 points to lead Norwalk to a 57-36 SBC Lake division win over Columbian on Monday in Tiffin.

Norwalk improved to 18-3 overall and 10-1 in SBC play, winning a third league road game in a span of five days. Division II AP No. 2-ranked Bellevue will enter Thursday's home finale vs. Norwalk at 20-1, 11-0.

"To look at the schedule to get back to where this game means something, gosh, what a credit to our girls," Norwalk coach Brock Manlet said. "To run through that — that was a lot of tough games and tough teams. We had to take care of business tonight to be able to fight for the prize on Thursday."

Norwalk hit nine 3s on the night, including 8-of-15 through three quarters.

"We are streaky like that," Manlet said. "We will have games where we hit eight or nine, then some games we will only hit two or three. I thought hitting those 3s in the first half loosened up Columbian's zone a bit. The girls were shooting with confidence."

Harkness made two 3s in the opening quarter and Leah Malson splashed in a triple to give the Truckers an 18-10 lead after one quarter. In the second quarter, Bethany Cring nailed a 3, Malson split two free throws, and Harkness hit her third 3-pointer to push Norwalk ahead, 25-10.

"To play that well early coming over here was key," Manlet said. "If we would not have played well early and gave Columbian confidence, I think it would have been a different game."

Abby Dryfuse made two free throws to end the 10-0 Norwalk run over 4:54, but the Truckers' defense stuffed the Columbian offense for most of the second quarter.

Cring scored again and Malson connected on three free throws after being fouled attempting a 3. Kaia Woods made the only shot of the quarter for the Tornadoes — a trey with 1:54 left until halftime. But, Harkness scored twice more to give Norwalk a commanding 34-17 lead at halftime.

"We talked about being super focused on the game plan and knowing Columbian's personal and what we had to take away," Manlet said. "I thought we were really sharp, especially defensively, in the first half."

The Truckers did not take their foot off the pedal in the second half. Cring scored and Malson hit a 3 for a 39-19 lead. Later, Malson and Harkness connected on 3-pointers and Elena Barber hit a jumper for a 47-27 lead.

Jasmine Thomas scored off of an offensive rebound and then scored with 30.7 seconds left in the quarter, giving Norwalk a 52-27 lead after three quarters. The Truckers scored the final 10 points of the quarter while the Tornadoes committed seven turnovers in the third quarter.

"I thought we worked extremely hard and took away some things that Columbian wanted to do," Manlet said. "I thought we were fighting like crazy to get rebounds. Columbian is a big team and we are a little undersized compared to them. I thought we did the right thing and was in position. We did not always get the rebound, but I saw us working for it."

Manlet noted the defense on Woods and Maddie Brisendine was key. After 10 points in the first half, Woods was held to just three points in the second half.

"Woods is a nice little guard," Manlet said. "We talked about staying in front of her and trying to contain her going to the basket. It is easier said than done. She is super quick off the dribble and I thought we did a better job of it in the second half."

Brisendine became Columbian's all-time leading scorer just a few weeks ago. The senior had no points or rebounds at halftime, and tallied just four points and four rebounds for the game.

"Brisendine can shoot the ball and put it on the floor, so we put a smaller, quicker player on her and tried to make her work for everything she got," Manlet said. "We frustrated her a bit and it seemed to work. That was a key."

Malson tallied 13 points while Jasmine Thomas scored nine points. Jada Thomas had six points, grabbed 13 rebounds and added five assists for the Truckers.


Willard 62, Shelby 46

WILLARD — The Crimson Flashes broke open a tight game at halftime by outscoring the visiting Whippets by 14 in the second half of Monday’s non-league game.

For Willard (16-5), Madie Secor connected on four 3-pointers and scored 17 points. Cassidy Crawford added 13 points, while Lydia Wiers had eight points and six rebounds.

Brooke Vipperman also scored eight points for the Flashes, who host winless Huron on Thursday with a chance to clinch the SBC Bay division title outright.

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