BINGHAMTON – This time, Johnson City did not spot Norwich a 20-point lead at halftime.
The Wildcats survived Norwich’s lights-out first quarter, and held the Tornado to a season-low point total to capture the Stop-DWI Holiday Classic Regional One title Wednesday night at the Broome County Arena, 55-50.
It was Norwich’s sixth appearance in the DWI tournament finals, and fourth defeat. “That’s two years in a row where we came up short in the finals, and that’s frustrating,” said Norwich head coach Mark Abbott. “At the same time, we know we’re doing some good things to get invited (to this tournament) and play the best of the best in the area. It gives us a sense of pride that we are among the best teams year in and year out.”
JC avenged a seven-point loss to Norwich earlier this month, a contest in which the NHS (6-2) stormed to a 29-9 halftime lead, and withstood the Wildcats’ second-half surge.
This time around, JC was without 6-foot-4 powerhouse Daquan Jones, who was out of the area playing in an all-star football game. Seeing more time on the floor in Jones’ stead was forward Rashawn Powell. Powell, who scored four points in the first meeting, led his team with 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting, while also collecting numerous blocked shots and double-digit rebounds.
Powell had six points in the last quarter, and hit two free throws with 25.3 seconds left to move his team’s lead to five points. “Powell was the man tonight,” Abbott said. “We had no answer for him on either end of the floor. They had a different rotation the first time we played them, and with Jones out, Powell was playing more. He was the difference out there tonight.”
Norwich raced to a 19-13 first-quarter lead behind six points from Richie Bonney, three balls from Josh Borfitz and Casey Edwards, and a pair of hoops from starting point guard Derek Hughes.
From that point forward, Norwich was 10-for-40 from the field (25 percent) including a 3-for-13 rate from behind the three-point arc. It was a huge drop-off from Monday’s victory over Seton Catholic Central when NHS made better than 50 percent of its three-point tries and nearly 45 percent of its overall shots.
“Things were going well in the first quarter, and then it changed,” Abbott said. “We were trying to find an answer why that happened, and we couldn’t come up with anything. We had a couple of costly turnovers, but we played over the shots that we missed, and we missed a lot of makeable ones. It was not a good game offensively. When you give up 55 points with the scorers we have, you need to win.”
Although Norwich did not find a consistent offensive rhythm after the first quarter, it took an early 34-26 lead in the third quarter after Andrew Austin’s three-pointer and Edwards’ steal and layup...