SYRACUSE – Despite the relentless hustle, the uptempo and physical contest – the style of the Lady Purple Tornado all season long – Norwich fell to Section III champion South Jefferson 61-58 Saturday night at SRC Arena on the campus of Onondaga Community College in the New York State quarterfinals.
Purple Tornado senior Taylor Hansen led in the scoring column for the Section IV champions, finishing the game with 16 points.
The Lady Spartans were paced by the inside play of Alyssa Stevenson, scoring a game-high 23 points, and their freshman point-guard Jackie Piddock. Piddock, a shifty and quick ball-hander who normally leads in the scoring column for South Jefferson, ended the night with 17 points.
Prior to the start of the contest, Norwich head coach Josh Bennett said his team wasn’t going to change their style of game. And they didn’t as the Tornado were sending two to three girls in the face of Piddock in the Spartans’ back court, hoping to throw the young point guard into a little bit of a panic.
However, the freshman handled the pressure with poise and composure, helping lead the Spartans to a run in the fourth quarter.
After starting with a 2-0 lead, South Jefferson tried to push their lead open but it seemed like every time the Spartans began to pull away in the first quarter, Norwich had an answer and came rallying right back.
South Jefferson pulled ahead by four after Stevenson hit a mid-range jumper – something for which the senior forward is known – but Hansen chopped the lead down to two with a hard drive to the hoop and finish.
Next possession down the floor for Norwich went to Saige Benedict on the inside after Hansen delivered an entry pass to the senior forward and the Tornado tied the score at 10-10.
Norwich scored one more point before the end of the first quarter while the Spartans’ Abigail Piddock scored on a broken press hoop and an eight foot jumper by Taylor Scoville, taking the 14-11 lead.
The three point margin was quickly erased to start the second as Halea Eaton hit a deep ball from behind the 3-point line for the Tornado. Then Eaton immediately came away with a steal and finish to give Norwich their first lead of the contest.
South Jefferson answered and took the lead back on three straight possessions but once again, back came the Tornado as Abby Flynn hit a 3-point bucket to tie the score at 21-21. Hansen scored the next two baskets – one off a beautiful inbounds pass from Eaton and a spin move down the lane – putting Norwich ahead by four.
Sydney Coggins extended the Tornado advantage to seven points with a 3-pointer, scoring the last point for Norwich before the halftime break.
The Spartans closed the lead from seven down to four with an old-fashioned 3-point play by Piddock and a bucket at the buzzer.
Out of the break, Stevenson tied the game at 29-29 with a double-drop move on the block but Norwich answered and answered big.
With their usual big run – something they have had in every game this season – the Tornado ended their next three possessions with a made 3-pointer. Eaton drained the first and was followed by Flynn. South Jefferson’s head coach Michelle Whitley called a timeout, hoping to slow down the Norwich pace.
The quick break, however, did not slow down the Tornado as Jeffrey knocked down a 3-point field goal to make it a 9-0 run in a matter of two minutes of play.
Hansen quickly went coast-to-coast and finished the layup to push the lead to 11, the largest lead for the Norwich team.
Most of the season, following the big Tornado run, teams folded and were unable to comeback.
The South Jefferson Spartans did not. Once Stevenson ended their run with two made free throws, the Spartans began to chip away at the Norwich lead slowly. Stevenson went on a run of her own, scoring the next five points for South Jefferson to cut the deficit down to four...