ONONDAGA – The Purple Tornado, resembling a hard-charging horse coming down the stretch, had the finish line – the final buzzer – interrupt what could have been a monumental comeback victory.
Possessing the ball with 16 seconds to play, NHS failed to get off a game-winning shot attempt as it fell to Westhill in the Class B regional finals Saturday at Onondaga Community College, 59-58.
Harkening back to last year’s 20-point comeback against Chenango Valley to win the Section IV title a year ago, Norwich trailed 44-28 midway through the third period. A 10-0 run late in the quarter made the contest more competitive, and a 12-4 spurt over the final 3 1/2 minutes left the Purple and White a point shy.
“We just ran out of time,” said Norwich coach Tom Collier. “I really believe that if the game had another 30 seconds, we win it. But we didn’t have another 30 seconds. All the credit goes to Westhill.”
Westhill’s offense had Norwich reeling and out of sync in the third quarter. Already sporting a 35-24 halftime advantage. The Warriors seemed to have solved Norwich’s usually-tough halfcourt defense. Tyler Reynolds and Kevin Karleski scored on back-to-back buckets with nary a defender around them to raise the lead to 16. That prompted a Norwich timeout with 3:49 remaining in the stanza.
“To be honest, we were pretty sloppy on defense the first couple of quarters,” said Norwich senior Kyle Edwards, who said the Norwich bench coaches gave the players an ultimatum. “When we came to the bench, they told us it was now or never, and we can’t wait. We needed to string together some stops and make some baskets.”
There was no indication Norwich was ready to make one of its patented charges. Roland was tearing up the NHS defense scoring 16 in the first half alone and 27 for the game. For 20 minutes of play, it was all Westhill.