BOWLING GREEN – Bath’s vat of miracle finishes suddenly ran dry.
The Wildcats had a few chances at the end for a third straight magical ending.
But Norwalk turned Bath away and held on for a 54-53 victory in the Division II boys basketball regional championship game before more than 5,000 frenzied fans at the Stroh Center.
Norwalk led 54-49 with 34 seconds to go. Bath’s Taren Sullivan then hit two foul shots and a driving layup to bring Bath within 54-53 with 17.8 seconds to go.
It was close to the exact same scenario as Bath’s 50-49 regional semifinal victory over Defiance.
But this time in the final 17.8 seconds, Bath turned the ball over twice and Sullivan fouled out.
“We had some costly turnovers at the end and would have liked to had some better possessions at the end,” Bath coach Doug Davis said. “But they’re really quick with quick hands, and they got their hands on the ball, and they make it difficult to do what you want to do, offensively. I’m really extremely proud of our guys.”
With 2.4 seconds to go and the Truckers leading, 54-53, Norwalk’s Grant Hull missed his first of two free throws. He intentionally missed the second and Bath’s Dylan Burkholder swatted the ball out on the wing to Andrew Renner, who took one step and heaved a desperation shot past halfcourt at the buzzer.
“We did anticipate they were going to miss it (the free throw),” Davis said. “So we put two guys down there (on the blocks) and one of them is right-handed and the other is left-handed. We wanted to try to bat it out there. We didn’t have a timeout and didn’t have time to go from under the basket to get a shot off.”
Norwalk (27-1), which dropped down from Division I this year, will face the Thurgood Marshall/Taft winner in the state semifinals at 10:45 a.m. Thursday at Ohio State. Bath ends its year 21-5.
Colin Gossard led the Wildcats with 18 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. He was also 3 of 6 on 3-pointers. Sullivan had 13 points and seven rebounds. Andrew Renner had 12 points and five rebounds.
Malone-bound Norwalk point guard Ben Haraway had 20 points and four assists. Jeff Thomas had 16 points and seven rebounds.
Haraway had 18 points in the first half, most of those coming on explosive drives to the basket. His quickness helped Norwalk take a 34-28 lead at the half.
One controversial play happened with 1:55 left in the half.
Hull attempted a 3-pointer from the right wing. Thomas went up and clearly grabbed the rim and then tipped the ball into the basket.
But instead of a goaltending call or a two-point basket by Thomas, the play was ruled a 3-pointer for Hull.
That gave Norwalk a 25-24 lead.
“I was surprised they gave him a basket, period,” Davis said. “Honestly, one minute before I got here I found out they gave him a three. There are two parts to it. How is it a basket, period, because you touched the rim. Second of all, how is it a three? His hand touched the ball. … I asked (about it). The guy who called it was across the floor, so I can’t ask him. I asked the official who was by me and he said, ‘Maybe we missed it.’ ”
Norwalk coach Steve Grey said, “I didn’t see it, so I don’t know what happened.”
Norwalk led 45-38 after three quarters. But Hayden Atkins took over guarding Haraway in the second half, and Bath began chipping away.
“They put some double-teams on me and that caused havoc,” Haraway said. “It was their size and their length (that kept the game in the 50s) and their ability to trap and turn us over.”
Renner hit a fast-break layup and a 3-pointer to bring Bath within 49-48 with 2:26 left.
Both Bath and Norwalk had chances when the Truckers leading 54-53 with under 17 seconds. Norwalk’s Thomas was called for an offensive foul, his fifth and final.
And Bath had back-to-back turnovers, one coming on a steal by Hull.
Norwalk’s quick 5-foot-11 Jordan Johnson did a good job making the 6-6 Sullivan earn his 13 points.
Grey said, “Jordan was unbelievable on Sullivan.”
Bath shot 42 percent from the field and was 6 of 19 on 3-pointers. Norwalk shot 43 percent from the field and was 3 of 11 on 3-pointers.
Bath won the boards, 34-26, including 12-10 on the offensive end.
It was Bath’s second straight loss in the regional finals.
“Our guys played hard and were in a position to win,” Davis said.
Division II regional final
At Bowling Green State University
Norwalk 54, Bath 53
Norwalk: Ben Haraway 20, Jeff Thomas 16, Grant Hull 6, Jordan Johnson 6, Kaleb Cashen 4, Brecker Turner 2. Totals: 21–9–54.
Bath: Colin Gossard 18, Taren Sullivan 13, Andrew Renner 12, Hayden Atkins 5, Trent Jones 2, Dylan Burkholder 2, Isiah Frazier. Totals: 19–9–53.
Three-point goals — Norwalk- Hull 2, Haraway; Bath-Gossard 3, Atkins, Renner, Sullivan.
Records: Norwalk 27-1; Bath 21-5.