It was with Saturday night in mind that Norwich coach Tom Collier had a heart-to-heart talk with his star senior Kyle Edwards in late December.
At that time, Edwards was diagnosed with stress fractures in both his knees, injuries that would sideline him for several weeks.
“He was so upset that he wasn’t able to play anymore,” Collier said. “I put my arm around him and said ‘it will all be worth it when you take three or four weeks off, you get healthy and you hit the big shot in the sectional finals.’
“He hit a lot of them tonight.”
Indeed, as Edwards poured in 23 points as the Purple Tornado successfully defended its Section 4 Class B boys basketball title with a 68-46 victory over Whitney Point at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.
Michael Sutton added 12 points as nine different players scored for Norwich (16-4), which will face the Section 3 representative in a state quarterfinal game 6 p.m. next Saturday at Onondaga Community College.
In last year’s Section 4 Class B final against Chenango Valley, Norwich trailed by 17 points at halftime and by 20 in the third quarter before rallying for a 56-50 victory.
Norwich averted an early deficit this time around, as an offense operating in peak form helped the Purple Tornado get off to a fast start, one that Whitney Point (17-4) never recovered from.
Norwich made its first seven shots, and nine of 10 in a first quarter in which it surged to a 23-14 lead, with Edwards’ eight points leading the way.
During one stretch in the opening quarter, Norwich scored 13 straight points. The surge started with an Edwards’ 3-pointer and featured three consecutive drive-and-scores by Sutton before a Grant Brightman layup capped the run that put Norwich ahead 16-4 nearly four minutes into play.
Norwich continued to build upon its lead in the second and third quarters.
Edwards and Oralls had five points each in the second quarter as Norwich took a 39-23 lead into halftime. In the third quarter Edwards scored eight points, including a pair of free throws with 1.5 seconds remaining that gave Norwich a 57-36 lead.
“We try to take advantage of the dribble-drive in our our offense,” Edwards said. “Michael was able to get into the lane a lot and kick it out. I was able to hit a few there in the early going and that really got us going.”
Collier felt coming into the game his team’s speed and depth could be an advantage against Whitney Point. He was proven right.
“On tape you can’t judge speed, but I think it helped,” Collier said. “But our big advantage was our depth, we played 10 and they played about six or seven. Our full-court pressure is what we’re about I think we wore them down.”
Whitney Point was seeking its first Section 4 title since 1993, when it captured the Class C crown.
The Golden Eagles got a great performance from Zach Marsh, who poured in 21 points, including eight in the fourth quarter as Whitney Point tried to stay within reach. But Adam Tillotson was the only other double-digit scorer with 10 and Whitney Point was simply unable to slow down Norwich’s offense.
“Their dribble-penetration really hurt us,” Whitney Point coach Steve Morgan said. “Zach came out well in the second half and was scoring, but we couldn’t afford to trade baskets.
“We were a step slow and they made us pay for it.”