Norwich Ready To Get It Done In State Regionals
Published: March 11th, 2022

Norwich ready to get it done in state regionals The Norwich High School Girls Varsity Team, coached by Josh Bennett, defeated the Chenango Valley Warriors for the Class B, Section 4 Girls Championship at the Visions Credit Union, Veterans Memorial Broome County Arena. (Photo by Jamey Mullen)

By Sun Sports Contributors Robert Jeffrey and Patrick Newell

For two years, Norwich's girls' basketball team has had to live with the absence of closure.

The unanswered question: What could've been?

The Purple Tornado were coming off a second straight Section IV basketball championship in March, 2020, and were preparing for a rematch in the state regional playoffs against South Jefferson.

Then the door shut on all high school sports activities in New York State. COVID-19 reared its ugly head, and the dreams of countless young athletes were dashed.

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That Norwich's basketball program has continued to excel is a testament to the caliber of players and coaches, but also a nod to unfailing perseverance.

Beginning this Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at Visions Federal Credit Union Memorial Arena, the Purple Tornado will have the opportunity - win or lose - to pursue closure when they play host Section III champion General Brown.

Margaret Dougher was a sophomore on the 2020 team, and she recalled the feeling of losing the opportunity to compete for a state championship.

“Finding out that we couldn't get to play was probably one of the worst days I've been through in a long time,” Dougher said. “Just that feeling of ‘you never know,’ like what if we had the chance to play, like we could have gone all the way. You're just never gonna know because we never got that chance." 

A quartet of NHS seniors, Emily Evans, Makenzie Hess, Dougher and Maddy Morris, remain from that 2019-2020 team, and each expressed the unfinished business that lies before them on Sunday.

"When we heard about COVID, we were devastated. We all knew we had a good chance at going far,” Hess said. “I feel very lucky to have a second chance. You don't get these opportunities very often. Especially since I'm a senior now; this is my last chance and I want to take advantage of it" 

With the feeling of fortune that often comes with winning a Section IV title, this one also comes with added responsibility that Norwich teams before them have never had to bear.

“We've got to pick up where we left off. Go as far as we can for the girls that couldn't,” Morris said, describing what it will mean to her and her fellow seniors when they step on the hardwood on Sunday.

With Norwich’s sights set on winning this game, there is added motivation that their ultimate goal is still yet to come.

"We set out on the beginning of the year, and winning a sectional championship was a goal” said Norwich head coach Josh Bennett. “But, that wasn't our end goal. Our end goal was to win the state championship. We can't win the state championship unless we win this game (on Sunday).”

General Brown enters Sunday’s contest with a 22-2 record, and the number four ranking in the latest New York State Sportswriters Association Class B poll. Norwich, meanwhile, has a few more losses on the docket sporting a 16-6 record, but the Purple Tornado still merited strong consideration in the poll coming in as the number 10-ranked club.

The Lions sport a balanced offense led by seniors Emma Dupee and Karsyn Fields, along with juniors Kori Nichols and Ainsley Fuller.

Nichols leads the Lions in scoring averaging just under 15 points per game this season. Fuller is second with 12 points a game with Dupee and Fields hovering just under nine points a tilt.

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Entering Sunday’s Central Region clash, the only player on the floor from either squad with state playoff experience is Evans.

Evans, the only Norwich girls’ basketball player in program history to play on three Section IV championship teams, was a freshman on the 2018-2019 team that lost to the future Class B State runner-up South Jefferson.

Evans summed up the feelings of her team succinctly:

“We’re very glad to be back in this position and heading face on into (the regional game) again” she said. “We’re ready to get it done.”