Norwich stormed back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit Monday to a 48-45 win over New York Mills for the Mirabito STOP-DWI Holiday Classic’s Regional Division II championship.
Regional Most Valuable Player Michael Sutton scored eight of the team’s 15 fourth-quarter points while Purple Tornado defenders limited New York’s top-ranked Class D team to two points through the closing 8¾ minutes.
Norwich took its first lead since the first quarter when Carlos Ithier finished a fast break set in motion by Storm Cook’s strong rebound and subsequent outlet. That made it 44-43 with 2:46 to play.
Zan Stewart converted a pass from Sutton into a goal in transition with 2:25 to play before the Marauders’ lone fourth-quarter field goal, a tip-in by Ali Hassan, made it 46-45 with 2:06 remaining.
The lone scoring through the conclusion came on two free throws by Sutton with four seconds to play. New York Mills then failed to get off a shot against Norwich’s pressure.
Sutton closed with 19 points, five rebounds and three assists, Stewart had 11 points and six rebounds, and Cook’s 15 rebounds were five clear of next-best individual in the contest.
“We use full-court pressure and it hurt us in the third quarter, they threw over our head,” said Norwich coach Tom Collier. “But we didn’t give up on it. Our whole belief is that we’re going to wear you down and at the end of the game we’re going to beat you.
“I believe we wore them down.”
New York Mills stretched a four-point halftime advantage to a 41-27 lead six minutes into the quarter. That surge by the Marauders included three consecutive buckets by Nick Comenale and concluded with an interior strike by 6-foot-4 Hassan that made for the 14-point difference with two minutes to play in the third.
There was zero indication that when Comenale made a steal and traveled three-quarters of the court for a layup that it would be his team’s second-to-last points of the night.
“It’s like a 15-round fight. If we can wear them down by the time it’s over … ” said Collier, whose team prevailed despite an 18-for-60 shooting night that factored in an array of tight-range misfires.
The Purple Tornado rally began with consecutive goals from Sutton, followed by Cook’s tip-in in transition and a free throw by Ithier. The deficit was reduced to 43-42 when Sutton muscled his way to the rim — as he did repeatedly — with 3:29 remaining.
“Michael Sutton can dribble through anybody. I think he uses some of those football quarterback moves,” Collier said.
Sutton was sidelined for the first couple weeks of the season with a foot ailment — “And Michael was ready to break out tonight,” Collier said. “He’s just getting into form now. Sunday night he showed a little bit of it and tonight he showed more.”
New York Mills’ Comenale, 3-point contest winner Friday and producer of 33 points Sunday, scored a team-leading 21 but was 0-for-7 on 3-point attempts. In fact, a team that leans hard on the long ball was a collective 1-for-12 outside the arc.