BINGHAMTON – “All heart.”
That's the phrase that defines what the Norwich Purple Tornado girls did in their 72-52 season ending loss to the General Brown Lions in Sunday's Regional Final.
Fighting through a 16 point deficits throughout the contest, the Purple Tornado left it all on the hardwood and bounced-back time and time again.
Fast forward to the start of the fourth quarter, Norwich faced a 55-40 deficit that soon swelled to a 19 point General Brown lead. All before some Tornado magic happened.
Norwich's defensive pressure turned a couple Lions turnovers into easy baskets and in a blink of an eye- Norwich found themselves down 59-50 to the Lions with 5:38 left in the contest.
Then General Brown closed the game out on a 13-2 run.
The outgunned and outmanned Tornado just couldn't catch a break. From foul trouble, to injuries and some very physical interior play prevented NHS from ever taking a lead, as the Tornado saw a starter and a key reserve in Maddy Morris and Olivia Schiraldi both sidelined before the start of the fourth period.
"Just proud of how we left it out there. We knew it was going to be that kind of a game. We knew that they played that kind of physical, that kind of tough" said Norwich Head Coach Josh Bennett on his team's effort.
"All week we spoke about be gritty, be tough and make the toughness plays, and I thought we did the best we could," added Bennett.
Norwich's aforementioned run in the fourth wasn't the first time the Tornado nearly took the lead. After starring down a 16 point deficit with 5:42 left in the second stanza, the Tornado closed the gap with a 10-1 run over the final two minutes of the half.
The run was highlighted by a welltimed trifecta by Margaret Dougher with a minute to play in the first half. That was just one of Dougher's five treys in the game. Olivia Schiraldi's steal and lay-up with 4 seconds left cut it to a 34-27 advantage for the Lions entering the intermission.
A MacKenzie Hess trey-ball to open the third period cut General Brown's lead to 34-30; the closest Norwich would get the rest of the game.
"We made two noticeable runs, but we just couldn't push it over the hump." said Bennett, "I'm just really proud of my kids."
Norwich's Margaret Dougher scored a game-high 21 points. MacKenzie Hess pitched in 14 points for NHS.
General Brown's Kori Nichols scored 19 points with Karsyn Fields adding in 16. Emma Dupee and Ainsley Fuller scored 14 and 11 respectively.
Norwich concludes the season with a record of (16-7).
General Brown (23-2): 16 18 21 17 - 72
Norwich (16-7): 6 21 13 12 - 52
Norwich: M. Dougher 21, M. Hess 14, E. Evans 6, M. Morris 5, C. VanHouten 4, O. Schiraldi 2
General Brown: L. Dupee 4, K. Nichols 19, K. Fields 16, M. Ferris 7, A. Ward 1, A. Fuller 11, E. Dupee 14.