TC becomes latest Norwalk victim

Excitement could be found nearly everywhere at Columbian Friday.

The student section brought its A-game, as it was excited for the chance to knock off Norwalk, the state’s second-ranked Division I team.

There also was a lot excitement and celebration surrounding the three Columbian seniors playing their final home game.

One place there wasn’t much excitement was after the game in the Norwalk locker room, which Trucker coach Steve Gray found odd.

His team had just scored a 70-44 victory over the Tornadoes, wrapping up Norwalk’s second-straight unbeaten season. Yet, he felt the excitement level wasn’t what it should be for a team that just finished a 22-0 season.

“Disappointed that there’s not more excitement,” Gray said when asked his thoughts after the game. “It’s like tonight was expected. I told the kids that what they’ve accomplished over the last two years is something they’ll never forget. That we were able, for two years we never had a hiccup during the regular season. I’m just so proud of them. They go through a lot of practices where I’m very hard on them, and I couldn’t be prouder.”

Columbian’s Bryce Lonsway, Connor Conley and Taylor Warner played their final home game.

To the delight of coach Bill Beaston, all three were able to get in the scoring column.

“The best part was that they all scored,” Beaston said. “That was something that we really wanted to do and I’m glad for each one of them they were able to do that on their last night in the gym. The environment and the atmosphere tonight too. I know the game didn’t go in our favor, but just a neat evening for those guys to go out on in their last game here. I think it’s memorable for all three.”

It looked for a time as the night might have a chance to be even more memorable as Columbian hung tough with the Truckers through one half of play.

Columbian took advantage of foul trouble to two of Norwalk’s top players in Jeff Thomas and Jake Fetherolf to trim a 17-point lead down to 12 at the break. The lead was almost cut to single digits as a buzzer-beating 3-point attempt rimmed-out.

“I thought we battled,” Beaston said. “Physically they’re pretty imposing and I thought physically we matched up with them very well. They shot the ball really, really well tonight. Had guys that stepped up and made shots that haven’t. And we didn’t shoot the ball especially well. Especially in spurts. There were a couple spurts where we went cold and you just can’t do that against a team thats as efficient as Norwalk is.”

One such spurt came in the third quarter. The Tornadoes hit on just 1 of 14 shots in the quarters as they were outscored by the Truckers 21-6 in the period.

“The six points in that quarter kind of hurt us,” Beaston said. “We had good looks, we had the shots we wanted they just didn’t fall.”

Four Truckers scored in double figures, led by Thomas with 14. Thomas was instrumental in Norwalk’s third quarter surge, with eight in the period. Fetherolf was held scoreless in the first half before scoring 11 in the second.

While Thomas and Fetherolf had to sit after picking up a pair of fouls, Norwalk got contributions off the bench from Damius Peacock and Ben Haraway. Haraway scored all eight of his points in the first half while Peacock tallied six and finished the game with 13.

“That’s what makes us good,” Gray said. “Our practices are so competitive. The kids that came off the bench tonight is what we see every day at practice. Unfortunately for the kids that come off the bench, there’s five pretty good kids in front of them. Sometimes maybe they get a little lost in the shuffle.”

Lonsway scored 11 in his final home game for Columbian (7-15, 2-6). Sophomore Derek Dryfuse led the Tornadoes with 12 points and seven rebounds, which attracted Gray’s attention.

“I really like their post players. I think they got a chance to be really good in the next two years if they continue to work hard,” Gray said. “Lonsway, great kid and it’s been a privilege to get to know him in AAU. He’s had a heck of a career.”