NORWALK, Conn. As Norwalk High fought for its playoff life in the fourth quarter of Mondays Class LL girls basketball game against South Windsor, the team needed players to deliver down the stretch.
The Bears turned to their seniors, and they delivered. Alexis Noonan, Katie Schmidt and Zayna Fulton made several big shots in the final five minutes as the 12th-seeded Bears averted the upset bid of No. 21 South Windsor, winning 48-39.
We had never won a state playoff game before, said Noonan, who scored five of her nine points in the last quarter and grabbed several clutch rebounds. We werent going to lose. This is big for us.
Emma Oyomba scored 11 points, grabbed three rebounds and blocked four shots for Norwalk (16-5), which advances to play No. 5 Hillhouse on Thursday in New Haven. Erica Cohens added 10, while Noonan had nine points and seven rebounds.
Norwalk trailed 34-31 when Schmidts jumper sliced the lead to one. After a South Windsor turnover, Noonan had the key play of the game, scoring an old-fashioned three-point play to put Norwalk ahead. South Windsor tied it once more, but Fulton hit two free throws with 4:53 left to put Norwalk ahead to stay. Cohens steal and layup with 3:46 left gave the Bears a 41-37 lead, and Noonan scored off a nice pass from Cohens with 3:01 left to put the Bears up, 43-37. South Windsor never got close again.
We were worried, Noonan said. Theyre a very good team. It was close, but our seniors stepped up. We werent going to let it slip away.
Norwalk won despite playing the final 6:29 without Oyomba, who was saddled with foul trouble. Schmidt was in foul trouble most of the game, and Norwalk missed a ton of layups early and committed turnovers.
It doesnt matter how we won, coach Rick Fuller said. This is playoff basketball. The only thing that matters is that we win.
South Windsor led throughout the first half before Cohens basket gave Norwalk its first lead early in the second quarter. The game stayed tight for most of the second half until the Bears made their late push.
Fulton finished with eight points, and freshman Denisha Gardener contributed six rebounds and four points. Now the Bears, who opened the season with three straight losses, have an elusive state tournament victory.
Our seniors put the team on their back and they stepped up, Fuller said. Theres nothing like that game experience. We turned to them down the stretch and they kept us calm.
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