Norwich’s boys basketball team pressed, trapped, and never trailed in a 78-57 Section 4 Class B semifinal win over Whitney Point on Friday night.
The Purple Tornado, ranked fourth in the state by the New York State Sportswriters Association, will go for a third consecutive sectional championship next Saturday against Oneonta at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.
In front of a capacity crowd at dimly lit Jack Jones Gymnasium, the Purple Tornado rode their defense to an early 14-3 lead. The smaller Eagles could not slow the pace, and Norwich extended its advantage to 31-12 early in the second quarter.
The Eagles would trail by at least 19 points until the final buzzer.
“We came out with a lot of energy. We jumped on them,” Norwich coach Tom Collier said. “Our defense was swarming as usual. We do our full court press, we trap around. I thought that worked fairly well tonight.”
Storm Cook scored 17 first-half points to lead the home team into the break with a 50-26 advantage.
But when Cook went scoreless in the second half, Zan Stewart kept the offense clicking. The junior wing scored 15 of his game-high 28 points in the second half, finishing the night with six 3-pointers.
“I can’t do it without my teammates,” Stewart said. “Everyone was feeding me the ball, I got into rhythm and they kept feeding me the ball. It basically comes from them. I just make the shots — they get me open.”
Stewart’s shots came when Norwich needed them most. With Whitney Point keeping the Purple Tornado at bay midway through the second quarter, Stewart nailed his third 3-pointer to spark an 8-3 run heading into halftime.
And after Whitney Point had trimmed a 24-point Norwich advantage to 19 early in the fourth quarter, Stewart buried back-to-back treys to put the game out of reach.
“Zan’s improved basically every day in practice,” Collier said. “He’s gotten better as the season’s progressed. He’s shooting really well.”
Whitney Point’s Zachary Marsh displayed his own perimeter touch, converting three 3-pointers en route to scoring 17 points. He posted seven points in the second half, but just two before the 3:35 mark of the fourth quarter — well after Stewart’s treys sealed the deal.
“He’s a great player. He’s going to get his points — we knew that,” Collier said. “But we controlled him pretty well, I thought.”
Whitney Point’s Gabriel Shrauger finished with 17 points. For Norwich, Michael Sutton (12 points) and Carlos Ithier (10 points) joined Stewart and Cook (17 points) in double figures.
Sutton, along with fellow seniors Cook and Mike D’Abbraccio, could become the first players in Norwich history to hoist three Section IV championship trophies.
“It’ll be special for these three guys, these three seniors,” Collier said. “They’ve kind of talked about it a little this year. That would be quite a cap to their senior season.”