Fans on hand for Monday’s substate game between Norwalk and Clarke of Osceola saw more than a blowout win by the heavily favored Warriors.
They witnessed a lesson in perseverance and sportsmanship.
Late in the game, with the win out of reach, Clarke coach James Dingeman looked deep down his roster where he found senior reserve Juan Echeverria.
Echeverria, a special needs student, came off the bench in the final minute and hit a 3-pointer that brought fans of both teams to their feet.
“He just loves the game,” Clarke Activities Director Tracy Johnson said. “And he practices all year.”
Literally, all year. Echeverria is a fixture on the sidelines for Clarke, where he plays football, basketball and baseball, and occasionally gets some playing time.
“Norwalk is really good and it was a tough night for us,” Johnson said. “We knew it was the last time he was going to play competitive basketball on a team.”
Echeverria’s number was called to start the fourth quarter.
— TJ Rushing (@TjRushing) February 19, 2019
The Norwalk players and fans were not given any advance notice, but Johnson said they quickly picked up that something unique was happening. The crowd began cheering every time Echeverria took a shot.
His fifth attempt found the bottom of the net.
“I was so impressed with the Norwalk students and the whole crowd,” Johnson said.
In the end, Norwalk walked away with a lopsided 82-36 win, advancing to Thursday’s substate semifinal against Dallas Center-Grimes.
Norwalk junior Bowen Born, the leading scorer in Class 3A, hit his season average with 27 points.
Clarke ended its season with 2-18 record.
Norwalk ends regular season with win
Norwalk ended its regular season Feb. 12 with a 75-59 win over ADM-Adel.
The Warriors trailed 33-32 at halftime but quickly took control of the game behind its big three: Born, 24 points, Tyler Johnson, 20 points, and Tyler Endres, 23 points.
Norwalk has shown the ability to adapt to its opponents’ game plans all season long. Ball movement and high-percentage shooting led the way against ADM. Norwalk shot 55 percent from the field, 28-of-51, and tallied 18 assists on those 28 made shots.
“It continues to be a trend of this team,” Norwalk head coach Chris Larson said. “They take what the defense gives them … they just figure it out and attack it.”
Born’s 24 points came on 9-of-17 shooting and three 3-pointers. Johnson hit 4-of-6 from three and led the team with six assists, while Endres hit 9-of-12 shots and grabbed 10 rebounds for a double-double.
“We always talk about respecting the game, and how basketball can be fickle,” Larson said. “This time of year, if you’ve had a good season, you have to be aware it can end in a heartbeat. So we just have to go out and do a job and leave it all out on the court.”
Norwalk hosts Dallas Center-Grimes on Thursday. Game time is 7 p.m.
— Reporter Zach Jevne contributed to this article