Truckers’ defensive pressure buries Tornadoes

PHOTO BY JONATHON BIRD Columbian’s Jada Reaves looks to pass as Norwalk’s Jiselle Thomas falls behind her Saturday in Tiffin.

In a game with 46 free throws and 60 turnovers, it was Norwalk’s on-ball pressure that hindered Columbian from the tip Saturday.

The Truckers didn’t play their best ball, but did force 43 Columbian miscues in a 62-37 Northern Ohio League victory. It all started with Jiselle Thomas’ pressure on the ball and the rest of the Truckers followed. Thomas scored a game-high 18 points for Norwalk (9-3, 3-2 NOL).

“I told the girls in the locker room that I was pleased with the overall shot selection we had, but we just didn’t knock them down,” Norwalk coach Brock Manlet said. “Defensively, that’s where we were really good, especially on (Madalyn) Brisendine in the first half. We did a nice job to limit her. When we play with that kind of energy and use our quickness to turn teams over, that’s when we are really good.

“Offensively, we expect (Thomas) to get her points, but defensively, she was really good. She seemed to have a lot of energy on the defensive end in the first half, especially, and disrupted a lot of what they tried to do. She got a lot of tips and steals. When she brings both sides of the floor, we are pretty good.”

Columbian (2-8, 0-5) started slow out of the gate with 23 first-half turnovers and just 12 points.

“They are quick and they will be the quickest team we play all year, so that flustered us,” TC coach Erin Reed said. “We just need to quit doing things we can’t. We need to calm down, slow down and pass the ball up the floor nice and easy and not freak out. We still try to dribble through people. Even a team without a Jiselle on it, you aren’t going to dribble through three people. We just need to figure out when we can do things and when we can’t.

“Tonight, we tried a lot of things that just aren’t in our realm. I don’t know why we picked tonight to try to do some of those things, and obviously it didn’t work.”

Thomas scored 10 of her 18 in the opening period for the Truckers, while Jada Thomas added eight points.

“Our girls and their girls are friends and I’ve seen them play a lot,” Reed said. “We knew they could shoot from the outside, so we thought if we had our two big girls down low it should at least prevent a few of their drives in a 3-2 (zone). I think for a little bit it did, but after a while, us trying to keep up with them and us rotating girls in that weren’t 6 foot anymore, it kind of evened itself out after that.”

Leading 27-12 at the half, the Truckers ramped up the defense in the second half, and especially the third quarter, when they pulled away leading by more than 20 the rest of the way.

“I think we are a really good team, but we’ve lost to two really good teams, but we were competitive and down to the wire in both games,” Manlet said. “The thing I told our team is to not worry about the other teams in the league, we have to worry about ourselves and take care of business each night. Hopefully by doing that, we can get ourselves back into the race.”

Brisendine led the Tornadoes with 14 points and Nakyia Jones chipped in eight.

“I think our tougher half of the season is over,” Reed said. “Rankings (the first set) don’t come out till next week, but I’d say four of our losses are to state-ranked teams, so I’m glad the tougher part is done, but we still need to step up and beat the teams we’re supposed to beat.”