By Grady Thompson
Sun Sports Contributor
Frank Speziale Photo
BINGHAMTON - In the last five years, Norwich and Chenango Valley’s men’s basketball teams have met three times in Section IV Class B tournament play. None of the match-ups have disappointed.
Saturday night’s sectional title bout between the Tornado and the Warriors on February 27th was no exception. Going into the matchup, Norwich had only one loss on the season and was ranked third in the state for Class B. They had played Chenango Valley twice this season and beat them on both occasions. But after three quarters of play on Saturday night, none of that mattered.
When they met in 2012, Norwich trailed Chenango Valley by 20 points in the third quarter of the sectional championship game before coming all the way back to win 56-50. In 2015, Chenango Valley travelled to top-seeded and heavily favored Norwich in the second round of sectional play and the Warriors pulled a huge upset, beating the Tornado by double figures and thus ending their season on a note of disappointment.
With 0:21 remaining in the third quarter, Chenango Valley had a 17 point lead over Norwich and it appeared that the Warriors were playing spoilers once again, sending the Tornado home deflated and empty-handed.
But then history would repeat itself at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in the form of the 2012 game instead, as the Tornado somehow mounted an incredible comeback to win the championship game 63-56 and advance to the Class B state tournament.
The Warriors first took the lead in the second quarter where they had six different players score to jump ahead 29-23 at the half. Chenango Valley used a very effective 2-3 zone defense that kept the usually dynamic Norwich scorers in-check for most of the game.
After halftime, senior Mark Mullins and the Warriors came out wicked hot as he scored 12 of his team’s 20 points in the third quarter. Norwich struggled to keep up on the offensive end and as the final quarter began they faced a 14 point deficit and thus the prospect of their season ending at the hands of Chenango Valley once again.
But then it was as if a switch had been turned on for the Tornado in the fourth quarter. They started clicking on every offensive possession while forcing turnover after turnover on defense to outscore the Warriors 28-7 in the final eight minutes.
“We sped them up to play at our speed and our athletes were just one step ahead of them,” said Norwich Head Coach Brian Collier. “A perfect example of that was Dashawn [King’s] block.”
About halfway through the final quarter, Dashawn King embodied Norwich’s athleticism with a monster rejection on a play that seemed to be an easy, wide-open layup for Chenango Valley.
On the offensive end, Tre Bonham and Jordan Vinal each were imperative to the comeback as they scored 10 and 9 points in the final quarter. They finished with 17 and 16 respectively.
Jordan Vinal said, “With the defense forcing turnovers, we were able to beat the zone down the court to get some easy transition buckets. Our execution on offense in the fourth quarter was great, but it was the intensity of our defense and our ability to create turnovers that won us the game. We weren’t ready for the season to end. We played every possession defensively like it was our last.”
With 3:34 left in the game, Norwich had climbed their way all the way back and tied it up at 50-50. On the next possession, Dashawn King stole a pass that led to a fast-break go ahead bucket for Norwich, and then Carlos Ithier took a charge on the ensuing possession and the arena erupted.
Once Norwich had the lead, they maintained it until the final whistle with poised play and solid foul shooting. Collier said, “14-15 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. It’s a tremendous testament to our guys’ hard work and focus in practice.”
“We all made big plays when we needed to for the win,” said Tre Bonham. “I’m not going to lie, I got a little nervous when I saw the lead they had over us, but I kept telling myself and my teammates that the game wasn’t over. I knew we had it in us to fight through the adversity.”
The win takes Norwich to 22-1 overall on the season. In the first round of Class B regional play, they face Section III champions Bishop Grimes. The game will be played at SUNY Cortland on Saturday, March 5th. Tip-off is tentatively scheduled for 1:45 p.m.
Norwich: Walsh 1 0-0-2, Bonham 5 5-8-17, Edwards 1 0-0-2, Ithier 2 4-5-9, King 1 4-4-6, Parrella 0 0-2-0, Vinal 3 8-8-16, Jeffrey 4 3-6-11.
Totals: 17 24-31-63.
Chenango Valley: Molesky 1 2-2-4, Hertzog 3 5-6-12, Ehrensbeck 2 1-2-6, Klepfer 1 1-2-3, Mullins 5 11-15-23, Murreld 3 1-2-8.
Totals: 15 21-32-56.
Three-point field goals: (N) Bonham 2, Vinal 2, Ithier. (CV) Mullins 2, Hertzog, Ehrensbeck, Murreld.
Score by quarter:
Team 1 2 3 4 Totals
Norwich 12 9 12 28 63
Chenango Valley 12 17 20 7 56