Editor’s note: The profile on the 1993-1994 Norwich varsity basketball team was written by Mark Abbott, a 1977 NHS graduate and longtime head coach of the varsity boys, and Patrick Newell, Evening Sun Sports Editor and a 1985 Norwich High School grad. This is the final installment in a series of articles on the inaugural Norwich Sports Hall of Fame class.
Coming off of an undefeated season that was capped by a state championship, with ten returning players that included four starters, expectations were very high for the 1993-94 Norwich High School boys varsity basketball team, and rightfully so according to head coach Mark Abbott.
“Sure, a lot was expected of us,” reflected Abbott, “but no more than we expected of ourselves. Our goal, as always, was to get better every single day as individuals AND as a team. If we did that then everything else (the wins) would take care of themselves.
“I think most people would have been disappointed with anything less than another state championship. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a high school athlete. I remember during one of the parades last year, probably after the Federation championship, someone was holding up a sign that said, ‘Let’s do this again next year,’ and my first thought was that we should be allowed to enjoy this one for quite a while before we had to worry about winning another one.”
Both Peter Burton and Josh Morris suffered knee injuries during the football season so they started the season as spectators, putting the Purple down two starters. But, if there was one thing this team, and the ‘92-’93 team had, it was depth. As a matter of fact there was so much depth that junior guard Matt Foote, who would be the ‘94-’95 team’s Most Valuable Player, spent the year playing on the junior varsity.
Joining returning three-year starters 6-foot-8 Class B Player of the Year Bob Lazor and sharpshooter Charlie Wightman were fellow seniors Jason James, another three year varsity player, 6-foot-6 Glenn Van Houten who is easily the team’s most improved player, and football quarterback Chris Maynard.
Burton would end up missing three full games while Morris missed one full game and the first half of a second game. Both players returned to the starting lineup for the season’s eighth game, replacing James and Maynard.
Norwich opened the season, in front of what was now a regular sellout crowd at NHS, with an 89-41 thumping of Chenango Forks. The Tornado then defended their tipoff tournament championship by topping Whitney Point 77-40, in what was a much closer game at halftime, 31-24, than the final score would indicate.
Seeing his team struggling in the first half, Morris approached Coach Abbott at halftime and told him that he was good to go. “Josh had been medically released,” said Abbott, “and he was still trying to work his way back into game shape. Apparently he had seen enough.”
Morris sparked a 32-11 third quarter for Norwich as they ended up cruising to the victory. Wightman and Lazor led Norwich with 22 and 19 points respectively while Van Houten added 10. Maynard had six assists and James five. That same trio had also led the semifinal scoring charts as Lazor had a game-high 27 points, Wightman 12 and Van Houten 11, with Kevin Pole adding another nine.
Norwich also had three double figure rebounders in Lazor (14), Jim Boyer (13) and Van Houten (11). Maynard again led the team in assists with five.
A 50-point first half paced Norwich to a 90-68 win in their STAC opener at Susquehanna Valley as Lazor was virtually unstoppable with 33 points and 13 rebounds. Wightman added 16 points and Morris 10 more while Maynard had six assists and seven steals.
Up next were two old rivals, Seton Catholic Central and Chenango Valley, but both clubs had been heavily depleted by graduation.
It was 47-13 at the half against Seton and 67-15 heading into the final eight minutes, ending up 91-29 as Wightman had a game-high 23 points and Lazor had another double double with 17 and 11.
Norwich was up 42-8 against CV at the half on their way to an easy 84-33 win. Lazor led the way with 21 points, James had 13, and Boyer 10.
“A lot of guys have been getting a lot of minutes early on and that can only help us as the season wears on,” said Abbott. “CV and Seton were both hit hard by graduation but we’ve got a tough stretch coming up with Johnson City, the STOP-DWI, and Maine-Endwell where we will need to be sharp.”
Norwich, 5-0 now, was riding a 34-game winning streak heading into its matchup with the Wildcats and their talented trio of Ryan Brenner, Eric Moschak and Mike Zarzycki.
The aforementioned trio combined for 61 points, but the inside trio of Burton, Lazor and Van Houten were the story of this game as Norwich prevailed 98-83. Lazor had 26 points and 13 rebounds, Burton 22 and 14 and Van Houten added 15 points. The Tornado guards also played well as Wightman had 13 points while James and Morris evenly split another 18 points along with having six and five assists respectively. James also had five of his team’s 25 steals and Morris another four.
Last year the Broome County STOP-DWI Program started the STOP-DWI Holiday Classic basketball tournament at the Broome County Veteran’s Memorial Arena over the Christmas vacation, but Norwich was unable to compete in it because it already had a full schedule. This year there was no way the event’s organizers were going to have the tournament without the Purple participating.
“The tournament directors (Jim May and Rick Westfall) were adamant about having us in the tournament, and they wanted us in the National Division as opposed to the Regional Division,” explained Abbott. “But I told them that the only way we could play in the National Division (three games as opposed to two) was if we were matched up with a STAC team in the opening round and have it count as a league game as well.”