The state-ranked Norwalk boys basketball team needed a win on Friday at last-place Bellevue to clinch the SBC Lake Division championship outright.
And although it was competitive for the first 10 minutes, the Truckers blew the doors off the Redmen with a 21-2 scoring advantage in the third quarter of a 64-32 victory at Bellevue High School.
With the win, Norwalk — ranked No. 14 in the final Division II Associated Press state poll — closed out the regular season at 19-3 overall and 9-1 in the Lake.
Norwalk has 15 league championships all-time, including 11 outright, spanning the Little Big, Northern Ohio League and now SBC. After a 49-year drought between league titles, this season’s is the fifth in a nine-year span.
“This year has meant the world to us,” Norwalk coach Steve Gray said. “Just two seniors in Brandon (Haraway) and Austin (Brown), who was coming off an ACL surgery from last year, while playing a lot of new faces.
“The team chemistry has been so good this year,” he added. “Now we’re ready to find out if we can have a really good year, or a great year. It starts on Tuesday. We’re in a four-team tournament next week, and our goal is to be the best team out of the four.”
The Truckers led 22-17 with 5:27 left in the second quarter, then turned it on to take control. Sophomore Garrett Chapin scored five straight points, including a three-point play, then Ryan Sowders added a basket to make it 31-18.
After a steal, just nine seconds later, Chapin took a pass in transition from the right side and put down a slam dunk to put the Truckers up 33-18 — then two free throws by Brandon Haraway capped a 13-1 scoring run to make it 35-17 with 23 seconds left in the half.
Leading 35-20 at halftime, Norwalk turned the game into a rout for the duration of a dominant third quarter.
Junior Garrett Obringer opened the third quarter with a four-point play just 29 seconds in — then 42 seconds later connected on another 3 to make it 41-20. After a Kyler Lacy basket, Obringer nailed his third 3 in a 2:53 span to push the Norwalk lead out to 47-20.
“I’ve just been feeling more confident in my shot,” said Obringer, who finished with 12 points and seven rebounds. “In practice I’ve been shooting it really well, which is transferring into games.”
Haraway then scored twice in transition, and finally Bellevue stopped 16-0 scoring run with a layup by Caleb Marshall. Haraway though, put a cap on his night with a deep 3-pointer at the quarter buzzer to put the Truckers up 56-22.
In three quarters, Haraway finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
On consecutive baskets in the second quarter, Haraway passed Shane Johnson (1,054) for eighth all-time in career points at Norwalk, and registered the 15th 400-point season by a Norwalk player.
“I think defensively we just wore them down,” Gray said. “We have great length, and I think it bothered them from about the middle of the second quarter on. They struggled with their open looks they did get, but defensively, once again, I just thought we were very good.”
Chapin added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Truckers, who played the entire roster and had 10 different players score.
The Truckers weren’t ppicked to win the league by the coaches or media this season.
“We had a really good summer, and I thought it could transfer over into this season,” Obringer said. “At 2-2, it would have been easy to doubt us — but we just kept pushing ourselves in practice.
“As (assistant) Coach (Tom) Foster says, we try to get one percent better every day,” he added. “We worked, and here we are.”
For Bellevue, Gavin Sparling had six points as the Redmen were limited to just 10 field goals in 32 minutes.
“I thought this time we got good looks in the basket and hung around for a little bit,” Bellevue coach Ed Rich said. “Their pressure started to get to us, and it seemed like we were playing defense the whole time because we couldn’t make a basket.
“But Norwalk’s defense is great, and stopping Haraway is much easier said than done,” he added. “I thought we had a chance a few times, but they are a tough matchup.”
Norwalk will face Tiffin Columbian (4-18) for a third time at 6:15 p.m. on Tuesday in a Division II sectional semifinal at Willard High School. Bellevue will face Clear Fork in Div. II on Wednesday in Bucyrus.
In the junior varsity game, Norwalk capped a winning season at 12-10 with a 41-22 win. Andrew Mozina had 14 points and five rebounds, while Justin Sommers added nine points.
NORWALK (19-3, 9-1)
Brandon Haraway 6-6–19; Austin Brown 3-0—6; Garrett Obringer 4-1—12; Garrett Chapin 4-2—10; Kyler Lacy 2-0—4; Ryan Sowders 1-0—2; Will Gehlhausen 2-0—5; Ian Minor 0-2—2; Jad Oglesby 1-0—2; Brandon Ehrenberg 1-0—2. TOTALS 24-11—64.
BELLEVUE (6-16, 2-8)
Caleb Marshall 2-0—4; Garrett Vickery 1-0—3; Chase Eisenhauer 2-0—5; Richie Stombaugh 2-0—4; Gavin Sparling 2-1—6; Grant Nichols 1-2—4; Parker Smith 0-1—1; Keegan Ray 0-2—2; Evan King 0-3—3. TOTALS 10-9—32.
Norwalk 14 21 21 8 — 64
Bellevue 9 11 2 10 — 32
3-point FGs: (N) Obringer 3, Haraway, Gehlhausen; (B) Vickery, Eisenhauer, Sparling
JV: Norwalk, 41-22