NORTON — In a season of development, evidence continues to mount that Cloverleaf’s boys basketball team is inching closer to a breakthrough.
The latest test came at Portage Trail Conference Metro Division-leading Norton, as Cloverleaf executed the type of defensive performance needed but missed a few too many shots as the Panthers pulled away 49-39.
“We played the pace that we wanted to play, which was important,” said Colts sophomore guard Brycen Holliday, whose team lost the first meeting 61-36. “We put everything we had on the floor. I’m proud of our guys.”
Cloverleaf (4-9, 2-7) forced 20 turnovers and held Norton (12-3, 8-1) to 14 first-half points, fighting tooth and nail to keep the game within reach. Twice in the first half Cloverleaf held the Panthers scoreless for more than four minutes yet trailed by three at recess.
“We controlled the pace and tempo tonight,” Colts coach Jack Banks said. “We’re not a team that can score with them in the 80s. I thought it might have been our best effort out of all the games.
“A rivalry, a lot of tension, that was a typical Cloverleaf-Norton game, which I love.”
With three minutes left in the game, Holliday splashed a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 39-34, giving him 11 points in the half. That was as close as the Colts got, as shooting guard Tyler Scott gave the Panthers a 41-34 advantage.
With two minutes remaining, Nate Dobben drove to the basket and completed a three-point play to give Norton its first double-digit lead at 44-34. A 3-pointer by forward Taylor Warner (game-high 17 points) with 1:30 left made the score 47-34.
Cloverleaf tried to answer, but there wasn’t enough time. Senior forward Joe Rohde (13 points) started a run that got the score to 47-39, but Warner hit a pair of foul shots to close the game.
In the first quarter, the Colts’ Sylar Jones opened the game with a basket that was followed by a 9-0 Panther run. The Colts called timeout but never led again.
“I think it’s a sign of maturity from these kids (that they stopped the run),” Banks said. “I’m ecstatic about the way we played, and I don’t usually get that way after a loss.”
Contact John Urchek at email@example.com.
Norton 49, Cloverleaf 39
CLOVERLEAF 4 7 14 14 — 39
NORTON 11 3 17 18 — 49
Cloverleaf — Joe Rohde 5-0-13, Nick Bailey 2-0-4, Sylar Jones 3-1-7, Brycen Holliday 5-0-11, Cruz Severson 1-0-2, Nate Riley 1-0-2, Matt Tanko 0-0-0. TOTALS: 17-1-39.
Norton — Jourdain Roberts-Lane 1-0-2, Taylor Warner 5-2-17, Dylan Marks 1-1-3, Tyler Scott 6-0-13, Christian Cheatam 3-2-8, Eric Booth 0-0-0, Nate Dobben 2-2-6, Austin Booth 0-0-0, Sonny Fox 0-0-0, Devin Weisbarth 0-0-0. TOTALS: 18-7-49.
3-point goals — Rohde 3, Holliday, Warner 5, Scott. Rebounds — Norton 29 (Warner 6), Cloverleaf 18 (Rohde 6). Assists — Cloverleaf 9 (Severson 3), Norton 8 (Cheatam 3). Records — Cloverleaf (4-9, 2-7), Norton (12-3, 8-1). Junior varsity — Norton 61, Cloverleaf 36.