Norwich guards Michael Sutton and Kyle Edwards teamed for 40 points and seven 3-point goals Tuesday night in a 65-53 win at Susquehanna Valley, the Sabers’ first loss of the basketball season.
Showing his finest form since a recent return from injury, Edwards produced 11 consecutive Norwich points in the third quarter to help the Purple Tornado stretch a four-point advantage to 46-33.
The Tornado (12-3) offset a 27-point outing from Susquehanna Valley big man Brendon Normile with a collective nine 3-point goals and stellar defensive rebounding to deal New York’s fourth-ranked Class B team its first loss in 13 games.
Each squad will host a Southern Tier Athletic Conference playoff semifinal next week, with opponents to be determined.
The telltale segment of play began after Aaron Cornish converted on the post to draw Susquehanna Valley within 35-31 early in the third period.
Edwards, a 6-foot-3 senior who has been troubled by knee ailments much of the season, started Norwich’s surge with a baseline drive for two set up by what appeared a mere eyebrow fake to freeze a defender for an instant in the corner.
Next came a 3-pointer from the left wing by Edwards, which was answered by Normile on a spinning move to the rim for a left-handed finish that had the Sabers within 40-33 with 4:44 to play in the quarter.
Back came Edwards with another 3-pointer from the left side 23 seconds later, and after a 10-point deficit prompted a 30-second timeout by SV, Edwards delivered a third consecutive 3-pointer from low on the wing to make it 46-33 with 3:21 left in the quarter.
Thereafter, the Sabers did not creep within a single-digit deficit.
“Mike Sutton was driving and making great passes, I was just able to put them in,” said Edwards, who closed with 15 points. “Mike made a lot of plays in the first half and that opened it up.”
As for what Norwich accomplished that 12 previous Susquehanna Valley opponents had not?
“Play defense and rebound,” Sutton said.
Sabers coach Mark Ward summed up the statistical tale as follows: “15 field goals to 15 field goals. We went to the line more than they did and made more free throws than they did. They made nine 3s and we made two.
“We had only 27 rebounds and three of them were offensive. That’s one of our issues.”
He added, “I thought their defensive presence and their rebounding outweighed our defensive presence and our rebounding.”
Indeed, Norwich’s inside personnel exhibited a willingness to go hip-to-hip and torso-to-torso with the larger SV forwards — 6-8 bookends Normile and Cornish — whenever the opportunity arose.
Sutton scored 15 of his 25 points in a first half that concluded with nine consecutive SV points after Norwich had gone ahead 30-18. The closing push brought two field goals apiece from Normile and Shaynne Rodriguez.
Edwards took a seat following his hot third-quarter stretch in accordance with a pre-determined allotment of minutes, but teammates Zan Stewart and Sutton took care of matters just fine.
Six-foot-three sophomore Stewart made his way down the lane to coax in a left-handed scoop from the right side, Sutton drove for a bucket against an absence of help defense, and it was 50-38 to start the final quarter.
Sutton contributed three consecutive Norwich goals early in the fourth on a strong drive for a lefty conversion, a crafty mid-range pull-up jump shot and a penetrating lean into a shorty that made it 58-44 midway through the last.
The 53 points marked Susquehanna Valley’s second-lowest output of the season.
“A lot of people try to play them zone from what we’ve seen on tape,” Edwards said. “We’ve run man all year long, and we thought that being a little more physical with them and being right up on the body would make a difference, rather than giving them open lanes and open shots in the holes of a zone.”
Said Ward, noting his squad’s 14 turnovers: “Those cost us and especially down the stretch I thought there were 3-4 really bad turnovers at critical times. But that’s a credit to their hustle and their defense.”