And for the two seniors on the Norwalk basketball team, Brandon Haraway and Austin Brown, it couldn’t have been sweeter.
For two straight years, Sandusky clinched league championships after beating the Truckers, and were offered and cut down the nets to celebrate at Norwalk High School.
But on Friday night, another dominant defensive performance — if not the best all season — spurred Norwalk to a 54-38 road win over the Blue Streaks. The victory clinched at least a share of the SBC Lake Division championship for the Truckers (17-3, 8-1), who then cut down the nets afterward at Sandusky High School.
How good was Norwalk’s defense in Friday’s win? Sandusky entered the game averaging 67.2 points overall and 69.9 points per game in league games. Against the Truckers, they had to work to just get to half those totals.
“It feels awesome winning a championship, or at least sharing one for now,” Brown said. “It really shows how we were able to turn things around through hard work.”
The Norwalk lead was 40-34 with 7:36 left in the game after Sandusky’s Dylon Jones opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer.
From there, Sandusky (11-7, 6-2) made just one field goal down the stretch.
Meanwhile, Norwalk standout Brandon Haraway put together another signature performance. Coming off just a 7-point game on Tuesday vs. Oregon Cardinal Stritch, Haraway was dominant against the Blue Streaks.
He finished with 31 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals. He shot 8-of-16 from the floor and 14-of-18 at the free-throw line, and passed Ryan Grose for ninth all-time in career points at Norwalk in the process.
“We know Sandusky is an aggressive team, and what we had to do is counteract that and be aggressive — and that’s what we did” Haraway said.
“It feels good. Finally. This year is the first time in my four years we beat them,” he added. “And to do it twice and cut down the nets at their place feels pretty good. It just proves the hard work we’ve all put in to succeed.”
Garett Chapin, who finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds, split a free throw and made an easy basket off a Haraway pass to put the Truckers up 43-34 with 6:30 left.
Brown then also scored inside, then Haraway made 3-of-4 foul shots to extend the lead to 48-34 with 4:31 left. Four more free throws by Chapin and Haraway came after Sandusky misses, and another easy basket by Chapin with 1:58 left put the caps on the win by extending the scoring run to 14 straight points (54-34 lead).
“It comes down to individual effort,” Norwalk coach Steve Gray said of his team’s defense. “They have some shooters, and we wanted to crowd them. They have some penetrators, and we gave them a step — but did a great job of walling off the rim.
“Once we cleaned up their offensive rebounding, we were in pretty good shape,” he added. “That was pretty neat to see the excitement on our kids’ faces after the game. I think they were very happy with their performance.”
Norwalk led 14-10 after one quarter, and looked like it may blow it open early with a 22-12 lead with 2:47 left in the first half. But Sandusky closed the half on a 9-2 scoring run to pull within 24-21 at halftime.
But the Truckers took control again right away in the third quarter, as Haraway got an easy steal and two-handed slam dunk in the backcourt as part of a 7-0 personal scoring run to open up a 32-23 lead at the 5:30 mark of the third.
It was still a nine-point game (40-31) entering the fourth quarter.
Norwalk entered the game having lost by 57-40 to powerful Stritch, its first loss in 14 games over a two-month span. But on Friday, Norwalk trailed just twice — both times in the opening two-plus minutes of the game.
“I know the group of guys I play with and every one of them are hard workers,” Brown said. “They don’t get down, especially when we’re all there to help pick each other up.”
Sandusky coach Colin Irish said he knew his team had to shoot lights out to score enough points to top the Truckers. Instead, the Streaks were 12-of-54 for the game.
“It was their defense and it was us,” Sandusky coach Colin Irish said. “They’re long, they’re big. Give them credit where credit is due. They outplayed us, outworked us, outreached us.”
The Truckers host Shelby (9-10) Saturday night in a non-league game. Norwalk will look for the outright SBC Lake title next Friday at Bellevue (6-13, 2-7).
“It’s something we’ve worked really hard for this year,” Gray said of the league title share. “We’ve pushed these kids, we challenged these kids and sometimes I think maybe I’m a little too hard on them, but tonight maybe they’ll understand why.”
Norwalk (11-8) lost the junior varsity game, 45-37. Jad Oglesby had 11 points and 10 rebounds for the JV Truckers.
NORWALK (17-3, 8-1)
Brandon Haraway 8-14—31; Garrett Chapin 3-5—11; Garrett Obringer 3-0—7; Austin Brown 2-1—5. TOTALS 16-20—54.
SANDUSKY (11-7, 6-2)
Jayden Green 1-0—2; Tahj Staveskie 4-5—14; Shonsai Aaron 0-2—2; Dylon Jones 3-3—10; RaLandes Johnson 3-0—6; William Simpson 1-2—4. TOTALS 12-12—38.
Norwalk 14 10 16 14 — 54
Sandusky 10 11 10 7 — 38
3-point FGs: (N) Haraway, Obringer; (S) Jones, Staveskie
JV: Sandusky, 45-37