BUCYRUS — This one was never in doubt.
State-ranked Norwalk (22-1) shut out the Galion Tigers (12-11) 19-0 in the first quarter en route to a 69-40 manhandling of the locals Tuesday night in sectional boys’ basketball tournament action here in the Alex Kish Memorial Gymnasium.
“It was exactly what I didn’t want,” a disappointed Galion third-year head coach Ed Rich said about the disastrous opening period. “We talked about how important the first four minutes were gonna be. We were a little tight and a little scared.”
The Truckers — who dismantled number-one ranked Ontario by 22 points in the regular-season finale between the Northern Ohio League foes just four days earlier — feature phenomenal athletic skills and height.
“We’ve never seen anything like that,” stated Rich. “They are so athletic and have so much length.”
The Tigers — who averaged just under 10 turnovers a contest during the regular season — coughed the ball up 9 times in the first frame. They finished with 17 miscues on the night.
Norwalk — which had a regular-season winning streak of 57 consecutive games snapped by Ontario earlier this winter — led 31-11 at intermission and blasted the Orange-and-Blue 26-12 in the third stanza to take a 57-23 cushion into the final eight minutes.
Team numbers showed Galion making just 11-of-29 two-pointers (38%), 4-of-17 triples (24%) while going 6-for-8 on free throws (75%). The Truckers were 24-of-39 inside the arc (62%), 5-for-13 on treys (39%) and 6-for-10 on freebies (60%). Norwalk held a commanding 31-18 rebounding edge and turned the ball over 11 times.
Individually, senior four-year starter Ridge Durbin pumped in 16 points for the Tigers. He finishes his GHS career with 913 points, good for sixth on the program’s all-time list. Tom Quay — an All-Ohioan who played in the 1950s — netted 911 points in the pre three-point shot era. Nate Reinking (GHS Class of 1992) tops the list with 1,702 tallies.
Others scoring Tuesday for Galion were: Houston Blair, 9 points; Kalvin Rinehart, 5; Gavin Ratcliff, 3; Lucas Bohach, 2; Bryton Carpenter, 2; Jordan Valentine, 2; and Tony Kirk, 1.
Jeff Thomas — a 6’5” wing and the District 6 Division II Player of the Year who will attend Georgia State on a basketball scholarship — scored a game-high 17 points for the Truckers. Norwalk will face long-time foe Shelby here Friday at 8 p.m. in the sectional championship game.
In going 12-11, the Tigers posted the first winning season for the program since the 2008/09 sectional and district titles squad that went 16-9, and just the second above-.500 campaign in 12 years.
“Overall, I consider it a good season, ” Rich responded when asked about his thoughts. “Realistically, I thought we could have won 16 or 17 games. We started out 3-7 and lost a lot of games we were in.”
Making things more challenging for the Tigers was the fact that three players who were receiving significant playing time either quit the team or were shelved for the remainder of the season because of injury.
“When you lose players, I don’t care who they are, it affects the team,” Rich matter-of-factly mentioned. “Like I said though, overall, I consider it a good season. I’m proud of how we turned things around after starting off so slow.” The Tigers won 9 of their final 13 games.