In a day of "firsts," Norwalk High School won its first ever state championship in its first trip to the state tournament. Taking down defending Division II state champion Columbus Bishop Watterson, Norwalk used a 17-5 run in the final nine and a half minutes of the first half to built a sizeable lead that the Truckers would maintain for the remainder of Saturday's game.
Behind senior point guard Ben Haraway's game-high 29 points, Norwalk survived being outscored 39-34 in the second half to knock down crucial free throws down the stretch to take down the defending champion Eagles. Senior forward Jeff Thomas added 18 points and 10 rebounds, while doing an outstanding job locking down the low post against a Watterson team known for its low post efficiency.
Holding Watterson to 33 percent shooting, well below the Eagles' average, Norwalk's suffocating pressure on the perimeter and strong rebounding made a huge difference. As senior Watterson forward Matt Hughes led the Eagles with 23 points and 10 rebounds, no other starter outside of senior point guard Cody Calhoun were able to find a consistent rhythm offensively. Calhoun added 15 points, 13 of which in the second half, as Watterson attempted to climb out of a 42-33 deficit going into the fourth quarter.
It was Haraway's efficiency on both ends of the floor, and the Malone University commit's free-throw shooting down the stretch that sustained Norwalk's lead in the final quarter. Behind the three-point shooting of Matt Lehmann in the fourth quarter, Watterson would cut the Norwalk lead to five multiple times, but could not get any closer.
Outside of Haraway and Thomas, senior shooting guard Grant Hull added eight points and four assists, but did his best work on the defensive end. Assigned with defending Lehmann for 32 minutes, Hull's off-ball pressure limited Lehmann from receiving any quality looks for a great majority of Saturday's game.
Reserve senior forward Kaleb Cashen put in valuable minutes for Norwalk filling in for junior forward Breck Turner, securing seven big offensive rebounds, while disrupting some of Watterson's offense inside. Senior guard Jordan Johnson played all but two minutes on Saturday, handling Watterson's tight perimeter pressure, while defending senior Andy Grieser for a great deal of the game.
Coming up just short of a second-straight state championship, Watterson's group of seniors ends an historic run for the program. Playing together since the third grade, Hughes, Lehmann, Calhoun, Joe DiOrio, and Grieser took the Watterson program to new heights with back-to-back trips to the Division II state championship.
With the win, Norwalk wins its first ever state championship in the Truckers' first trip to Columbus. Finishing the season at 29-1, Norwalk puts an end to Watterson's domination at the Division II level.
Convoy Crestview finishes season undefeated by winning Division IV state championship
Coming into Saturday's Division IV state championship vs. Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas, Convey Crestview was perfect at 28-0. Behind a 20-0 run to open the second half, the Knights end the season unblemished in a 71-42 win over the Knights of St. Thomas Aquinas for the school's first state championship in program history.
After a state runner-up finish in 2003, Crestview coach Jeremy Best brings home a state championship to Van Wert County behind the Knights' suffocating defensive pressure in the second half. Crestview punished St. Thomas Aquinas in transition, as Crestview forced a flurry of turnovers in the third quarter.
With Saturday's state final win over St. Thomas Aquinas, Crestview wraps up a season in which the Knights defeated all but four opponents by double-digits. At 29-0, Crestview makes a case for being considered as one of the best Division IV teams in state history.