NORWICH – Norwich played near its best in the fourth quarter, and it needed to in order to make up for perhaps its worst three quarters of offensive basketball in years.
Norwich had nearly as many turnovers (25) as total points (27) entering the fourth quarter, yet still managed a way to overcome a long checklist of miscues.
Jon Foulds hit one-of-two free throws with 15 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, then Foulds hit a baseline 20-footer with multiple Owego defenders in his face to win the contest. Foulds’ shot from the deep left corner spun around the front of the rim, hit the backboard, then spun back through the net at the buzzer. Norwich’s student body stormed the court to celebrate a 53-50 win that kept the Tornado in first place in the STAC Central Division.
When the dust settled, Norwich committed more turnovers in this game than any of the previous 13 contests (28), and the shooting percentage (29 percent) was colder than an eskimo’s air-conditioned igloo. Yet, it still figured out to win for the 13th time in 14 contests. “How do you win a game with that many turnovers and shooting 18-for-62?” asked Norwich coach Mark Abbott. “I guess you just continue to rebound and play defense like crazy.”
Owego started the game scoring the game’s first five points, and never trailed in the game until overtime. Norwich, in spite of 14 turnovers in the first half, trailed by only four. An early Dennis Oralls free throw in the third had the Tornado within three, 23-20. From there, the NHS turnovers came at a startlingly increased rate. Down 29-25, Owego scoring nine straight points to open a 13-point lead. Stephen Yanchus finished a layup after a Norwich turnover, and Yanchus along with teammate Mark Merritt traded buckets and free throws to move the advantage into double digits.
Stopping the bleeding was Oralls, who finished a layup after an Owego turnover at the end of the third trimming the Indians’ lead to 38-27.
“I don’t know – through the first three quarters – if we’ve ever been that inefficient on offense,” Abbott said. “We were literally giving them the ball. Through the Seton game, we had been outstanding taking care of the ball. The last two games we are giving it away. I have to think it’s more mental than physical.”
At the end of the third stanza, Abbott used the brief respite before the fourth to give his team some pointed comments about their level of play. “I told them that the way they were playing, we weren’t coming back (to win), and I wasn’t sure if they had it in them,” Abbott said. “Maybe their goal was to prove me wrong. I just think our guys said enough is enough.”
In just over three minutes, Norwich sliced the 11-point disadvantage into a friendlier five-point Owego lead. Reserve Zach Martinson front-rimmed a three-pointer that hit the backboard before dropping through, and Martinson was fouled on an offensive rebound on Norwich’s next possession. Martinson canned both of those free throws to ignite the Norwich offense.
“Zach was a big spark for us, and I think his five quick points took the pressure off of us,” Abbott said. “It was nice to see that.”
Foulds hit 15-footer runner from the left baseline and then drained a three ball with 2:42 left cutting the deficit to 41-39.
Owego, on the verge of giving up a lead it held since the outset, had back-to-back baskets from Merritt and Yanchus. Merritt was fouled after converting an offensive rebound, and completed the three-point play. Yanchus followed on the next possession with a steal and layup putting his team in command, 46-39 with two minutes left...