NORWICH – After three years watching another team hoist the championship trophy, Norwich reclaimed the top spot in the Norwich Pennysaver Tournament.
The Purple Tornado (2-0) held Oxford scoreless for 8 1/2 minutes in the second half, and went on to a 46-37 victory on Saturday night.
“We played absolutely lights-out on defense in the second half,” said Norwich first-year coach Josh Bennett. “I can’t say enough about how hard these girls work. If we can play the kind of defense we played tonight, I think we can compete with anyone.”
In no uncertain terms, Oxford was equal to Norwich for the majority of three quarters, and led 31-29 with 5:15 left in the third quarter on Kelli Whitehill’s layup.
That hoop was the last of the quarter for Oxford, and foul trouble to starting forward Haley Witchella further impacted the Blackhawks’ offense.
Witchella picked up her fourth foul with the scored tied at 3-31-31 with just over two minutes left in the third quarter. Norwich quickly pounced on the opportunity as tournament MVP Hannah Runyon hit a 15-footer after a feed from Bryn Loomis to unlock the tie. Runyon then pulled up and hit a three-pointer to make it 36-31 with 17 seconds left in the quarter.
“Haley wasn’t out for very long, but that was enough for Norwich,” said Oxford coach Chris Palmer. “Hannah stepped up and hit a couple of shots, and she definitely deserved the MVP award.”
Norwich extended the lead to 39-31 before Oxford broke its scoreless spell with 4:29 left in the third quarter on Alyshia Crawford’s put-back basket.
Loomis answered that basket driving and pulling up for a short deuce, and Molly DeMellier cemented the win with her third three-pointer of the game. DeMellier fueled the Norwich offense in the second half with nine points, and she added two three balls in the first half to finish with a varsity- and game-high 15 points. “When Molly squares up and gets into a groove, she can really shoot the ball,” Bennett said.