Truckers roll on

Shooting was not a problem Thursday night for Columbian.

Hanging onto the ball was.

And against the No. 2 team in Division II, that’s a big problem.

Columbian made 13 of 19 shots in the first half. But that was after the Tornadoes had turned the ball over on each of their first seven possessions. Norwalk, behind the hot shooting of Jordan Johnson and Breck Turner, took advantage. It jumped out to leads of 8-0 and 16-2.

Columbian mounted a comeback. Alec Demith’s straightaway 3 capped an 11-2 TC run, and made it 18-13. Donovan Walker’s jumper for TC at the 1:46 mark of the first quarter made it 20-15 Truckers.

But Norwalk was too much on both sides of the ball, breaking the game open in the second half and winning 87-65.

Johnson and Turner were red hot from the floor. Johnson made 12 baskets for a game-high 24 points, while Turner made seven – including a number of difficult jumpers – and finished with 18 points.

“I thought offensively, Jordan Johnson and Breck Turner were outstanding,” Norwalk coach Steve Gray said. “We’ve gone a couple of games where people haven’t guarded them, and if they play like that in the future, that philosophy is going out the window.”

For Columbian coach Bill Beaston, it was a matter of defensive risk. He said he had his team focus on shutting down Jeff Thomas, who burned the Tornadoes for 26 points in the Truckers’ 74-43 win over TC Dec. 28. Thomas, guarded well by Columbian’s Josh Flint, managed just eight points.

“We were content to leave (Johnson) open, and we were content to leave (Turner) open, to focus on those other guys,” Beaston said. “They knocked down shots. Credit to them, that’s why they’re as good as they are.”

It was the Truckers 57th-consecutive regular season victory. They are one win away from tying Zanesville Rosecrans – which won 58 between 1961-1964 – for eighth place on the state’s all-time list.

TC (5-7, 2-4 Northern Ohio League) was led by Flint and Derek Dryfuse, who each scored 17 points.

“I thought Josh played a really strong game tonight, and he basically guarded Thomas the entire night,” Beaston said. “His effort was outstanding.

“I thought Alec Demith had a really nice effort too, and I think those guys can really build off tonight.”

Demith finished with 13 points. Beaston said he was pleased with much of what the Tornadoes did Thursday night, but they were hindered by 29 turnovers.

“In the end it was just too many turnovers,” he said. “I really liked what we did with the ball when we didn’t turn it over. We stressed to these guys, ‘you can attack the rim on these guys, and you can finish.’ We’ve stressed it to those guys for a while, and it hasn’t happened. Tonight they finally did it, and that’s a big positive for these guys going forward.”

Norwalk (14-0, 6-0) got 17 points from Ben Haraway, and nine from Grant Hull.