Norwich adjusts on the fly


Patrick Newell

Norwich varsity boys’ basketball coach, Tom Collier, said he was in the unfamiliar position of not having a scouting report on Whitney Point. Sure, the Tornado met the Golden Eagles in the Section IV Class B championship game last season, but only two starters from that team returned, and Point had won its first two games this season by an average of 30 points.
In Saturday’s Tom Schwan Tournament opener, Norwich and Whitney Point traded baskets for about a quarter and a half. “It was kind of like two boxers feeling each other out,” Collier said in describing the early play. “We weren’t sure of the type of stuff they would be running, so we made adjustments until we figured it out.”
The tenor of the game changed quickly. Soon after Whitney Point made a tying three to make it 18-18, Norwich shifted to another gear. Over the final half of the second quarter, Norwich scored 16 unanswered points, and rolled into halftime with a 34-18 lead. Storm Cook fueled the Norwich offense early in the game with his aggressive play under the basket, but it was the guards – Mike Sutton, Matt Burke, Chris Trevisani, and Carlos Ithier – who sparked the offensive eruption.
The momentum of the second quarter carried over well into the third quarter. When Mike Oralls made a layup with 2:30 left in their quarter – the final two points of his 20-point evening – Norwich had stretched its lead to 64-26. Doing the math, over a 9 1/2-minute span, the Purple Tornado outscored the Golden Eagles, 44-8. “Let me tell you, Whitney Point is a good team, and they’ll win a lot of games this season,” Collier said. “We started pushing the ball on offense, and they just weren’t able to match up with us.”
Collier said he also made an adjustment in Norwich’s full-court pressure, one that led to numerous Whitney Point turnovers. Those turnovers were converted into easy buckets. “We just throw waves of players at people, and we wear teams into submission,” Collier said. “We had a lot of good players last year, and I think we have even more this year.”
Chenango Forks is next on the docket for Norwich, who play at the Blue Devils tonight.

Clyde Cole Tournament notes
After marking its golden anniversary last season, the Clyde Cole Wrestling Tournament entered the first year of the next 50 this past weekend at Oxford. Before the finals, the Oxford Rotary, sponsors of the tournament, honored former Oxford teacher and coach – and current Section IV sports coordinator – Ben Nelson with its yearly dedication. It was a well deserved honor for Nelson, who has helped promote high school athletics for over 45 years.
One thing to note in the tournament is the official tournament program, one that is extensively detailed with pictures and tournament statistics. Within those statistics is a listing of every person who has won a tournament title since its inception. According to the program, only two athletes have won six Clyde Cole titles, and both wrestled during my tenure at the paper. Oxford’s own, J.P. O’Connor, was a champion from 2000-2005. O’Connor would also win four state titles, and eventually a national collegiate title his senior year at Harvard. Eric Decker of Unatego and later B-G/A also won six Clyde Cole titles. Decker also became the first Section IV wrestler to win six Section IV championships. Decker went on to win three state championships.
I did locate one interesting tidbit. Before Tristan Rifanburg won a state title for Norwich four seasons ago, the most outstanding NHS wrestler I covered was Joe Downey. In his freshman and sophomore years at the CC, Downey ran into a Queensbury wrestler, Dan Stine, who would win one state championship and earn a Division One wrestling scholarship. Downey missed the Clyde Cole tourney his junior year due to injury, but came back his senior year to win his lone Clyde Cole title. That Downey captured just one Clyde Cole tournament speaks to the depth of wrestling talent this yearly event has brought to Chenango County for over half a century.

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