Norwich’s magical season skids to a halt with a loss

Frank Speziale Photo

CORTLAND – The Norwich varsity boys basketball team didn’t end their season as many had hoped they would, as they were unable to overcome a big deficit late and lost to Bishop Grimes of Section III, 69-60, this past Saturday March 5, at 2:45 p.m. at SUNY Cortland.

“All I really can say is that it was a great season, even though we didn't make it to where we wanted to be we still accomplished a lot. I would do anything to relive this season over again with those guys,” said senior for Norwich Jake Walsh.

Coming into the afternoon of the New York State playoff game Norwich had an accomplished season resume under their belt, as they were hot off a 17-point comeback win over Chenango Valley in the Section IV finals to claim their fourth section title in five years.

Norwich also boasted a win third straight year of being crowned the STAC champions when they defeated Elmira 73-51 earlier this year. Norwich completed their season with a 22-2 record, with their only other loss, besides to Bishop Grimes, coming to Jamesville-Dewitt, oddly enough Bishop Grimes coach Bob McKenney's previous team.

The game followed suit of Norwich's previous matchup in the Section IV finals, as Norwich found themselves unable to sink many baskets early on, leading to an early deficit.

The game began slow for The Tornado who gave up two early three-point shots which propelled the Cobras of Bishop Grimes to a 13-8 lead after the first quarter of play.

“The shots weren't falling and it was tough,” said Norwich senior Carlos Ithier.

Norwich finished the game shooting sub-par 35 percent making only 21 of their 60 total shots.

The game would see its closest score of the day just over a minute into the second quarter when Norwich pulled the deficit to only 2-points at a 13-11 score.

The gap would expand shortly after this however, when the Cobras put up the next 8-points to Norwich's 1-point, before Norwich head Coach Brian Collier would call the time out to regroup.

Norwich who needed to scrape every point they could muster in this game, would struggle with the free throw shooting early on, and only finished the game shooting 12-20 from the line, resulting in a potential 8-points that were missed.

At the halftime break Norwich saw the scoreboard read 28-19, however, as the season of comebacks had shown, an 11-point deficit at the half was not out of the ordinary or impossible to come back from for the Tornado.

“They’re one of the best teams we’ve seen all year. We got off to a great start, they’ve been there. Their shots weren’t falling early and they had a couple of bad passes and we capitalized on that,” said Bishop Grimes head coach Bob McKenney.

Norwich seemed to settle into rhythm somewhat in the third quarter following a spark from a big three-point shot from Ithier. Ithier would finish with a team and game high in scoring at 16-points.

Norwich and Bishop Grimes exchanged blows in back and forth action for the next 8-minutes. However, despite the better play from the Tornado, the lead was not cut into as they trailed by 15-points entering the final quarter.

This time it was Norwich's Dashawn King who started off the quarter hitting a 3-point jumper in under :20 seconds into the final quarter, in an attempt to spark the Tornado offense.

Norwich had too little too late on offense even after posting a game high for points in a quarter 25-points in the fourth quarter alone.

With two breakaways layups from Ithier and foul shot from senior Jordan Vinal to bring the game to 49-66 with around 4-minutes left the game was till up for grabs it seemed.

“Right to the end they don’t quit, and we knew that, we've seen their fourth quarter scores so we knew what we were up against,” said McKenney. “We just had to stay in our game plan, hard part is they started making some three's at the end and it started to stretch us out but these kids (Bishop Grimes) have battled so hard all year and I'm so proud of them right now.”

The despite playing better as a whole in the fourth quarter, showcasing better shooting and even a late dunk from King, what made the Tornado such an exciting team to witness all season with some late game heroics was their undoing as they would draw it to a late 9-point difference, losing 69-60.

“Our team played their hearts out for the entire season and I couldn't ask for better brothers to play with each day in practice or in a game,” said Norwich senior Matt Parrella.

Norwich was lead in scoring by Ithier at 16-points followed by Dashawn King at 14, and senior Jamison Luke scoring 10-points.

Bishop Grimes leading scorer Johnny Wike had 13 on the night followed by Lucci Vigliotti, and Ac Ater who each had an additional 12-points for the Cobras.

“Our guys played until the end. Obviously we just didn’t play well enough, Bishop Grimes played better than us and they deserved to win tonight,” said Norwich head coach Brian Collier. “We had some adversity (this season) and we were able to overcome it. Today we weren’t able to overcome it, we dug too deep of a hole against too good of a team today.”

Bishop Grimes will move on in state play as they look to face off against Marlboro of Section IX in Glens Falls this coming Friday at 8 p.m. for the semi-finals matchup of the Class B state championships in mens basketball.

Norwich finished their 2015-2016 campaign at 22-2.

“This was the best season ever. Every kid on our team this year is so special and talented in many different ways. I'm excited to watch them go at it again next basketball season and i wouldn't have wanted to play with any other group of boys, so proud of everyone on that team and what we've accomplished,” said Norwich senior Carlos Ithier.

Score by quarter:

BG: 13 22 15 19-69

Nor: 8 13 14 25-60

Nor: Jake Walsh, 1 0-0 2; Ky'sawn Veale, 1 2-2 5; Tre Bonham, 0 1-2 1; Cameron Edwards, 1 0-0 2; Carlos Ithier, 7 0-0 16; Dashawn King, 6 0-0 14; Michael Carson, 0; Matt Parrella, 0; Alex Wehrli, 0; Jordan Vinal, 0 3-4 3; Jamison Luke, 2 6-10 10; Chris Jeffrey, 3 1-3 7.

Team Total: 21 13-21 60.

BG: Shawn Gashi, 4 0-0 10; Johnny Wike, 3 6-9 13; Lucci Vigliotti, 3 4-4 12; Dom DelVecchio, 0; AC Ater, 5 2-5 12; Jonah Cummings, 6 0-0 14; David Mo, 0 0-2 0; Mark Shattuck, 2 4-5 8.

Team Total: 23 16-24 69

Three-point goals: Nor: King 2, Ithier 2, Veale 1. BG: Gashi 2, Vigliotti 2, Cummings 2 Wike 1.

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