NORWICH – Norwich has just one loss to a Class B school over the past two years, and after Friday night’s victory over Whitney Point, the Purple Tornado are one victory away from possibly avenging that lone blemish.
Norwich junior Zan Stewart scored a career-high 28 points – the highest individual scoring total for a NHS player this season – leading unbeaten NHS (19-0) into the Section IV Class B finals in a 78-57 triumph over the Golden Eagles.
Next up is Oneonta Saturday night at the Broome County Veterans Arena. Oneonta advanced to the title game beating Susquehanna Valley, 60-49. As a consequence of Norwich’s latest impressive win, it is now in position to win a third straight Section IV title, something no Norwich basketball team has ever done.
“Well, we’ll be in familiar surroundings (at the Broome County Arena),” Collier said. “We hope to end up on top. Oneonta is a great team with a great coach. We know it will be a great challenge.”
Collier is never one to overstate his team’s accomplishments, instead, erring on the side of humility along with deference to his opponent. Even he was thoroughly impressed with his club’s first-half performance in which the Purple Tornado knocked down nine three-pointers and put a season-high 50 points on the scoreboard.
“We’re playing pretty good on offense,” Collier said, a downright effusive statement compared to his usual rhetoric. “Offensively, we’re getting into our groove, and it’s a good time for that, don’t you think?”
Whitney Point’s defense was dismantled early and often as the Purple Tornado unloaded a barrage of inside and outside shots that led to a 29-10 first-quarter lead.
Whitney Point’s Brady Harrington made one of two free throws 17 seconds into the game that tied it at 1-1. From there, Norwich rattled off 10 straight points in one minute and 50 seconds. Mike Sutton hit a spot-up three off a pass from Matt Burke, and Sutton returned the favor feeding Burke for a layup. Storm Cook hit a corner three, then Cook downed two free throws to extend the lead to 10 points.
After Whitney Point’s Gabe Shrauger answered for his club, Norwich responded with a trio of threes from Stewart, Sutton, and Cook. Later in the quarter, reserve Carlos Ithier hit a three and a deuce to end the prolific opening stanza. The rout was on, and it was just a matter of how many points Norwich would score, and how many points would separate the two clubs at the final buzzer.