Cade Norris proved a thorn in the side of Olentangy Orange for the second time this season in lifting Hilliard Bradley to a statement victory on the road that raises the Jaguars hopes for the post-season.
By Jarrod Ulrey
The off-balanced, fadeaway 3-pointer Norris connected on just before the third-quarter buzzer served as an exclamation point for a Jaguars’ team that has had the Pioneers’ number this winter.
Orange is the third seed for the Division I district tournament, but Bradley earned a season sweep of its OCC-Central Division opponent with a 62-51 win behind one of Norris’ best performances of the season.
Norris hit all five of his third-quarter shots, including two 3-pointers, and was 7-for-8 from the free-throw line in the final period as the Jaguars improved to 14-5 overall and 6-3 in the league.
The Pioneers are 17-3 overall and 6-3 in the OCC-Central.
“They tried to limit my catches and play really physical with me and push me around and get me tired, but that only works for a half,” Norris said. “When (shots like the third-quarter buzzer-beater) fall in, it always feels good. You get a couple of those, it’s always nice, but we still had to finish the job in the fourth quarter.”
The 3-pointer by Norris to close the third period gave Bradley a 48-41 lead. Orange responded by scoring the first two baskets of the fourth period, but never got closer than five during the game’s final four minutes.
Just as important to Jaguars coach Brett Norris as the 3-pointer made by his son was that it provided “powerful momentum” heading into the final period.
“We beat them twice, so I don’t know if we needed (Cade’s 3-pointer), but that helps when you shoot them in like that,” Brett Norris said. “It was a tough shot and was a player making a play. It’s a nice way to go into the fourth quarter, because (the lead) went from four to seven and they might have cut it to three or four once after that.”
Bradley expected a fired-up opponent after beating Orange 63-55 on Dec. 14.
With that in mind, coach Norris couldn’t have been happier that his team built a 12-5 lead midway through the opening quarter.
Sophomore Garrett Sever scored 11 first-quarter points, including making two 3s, as Bradley built an 18-9 lead.
Orange responded, however, with two 3-pointers apiece from senior guard Elias Lewis and junior backup guard Dylan Joy and was within 31-29 by halftime.
“When we play together and play through our defense, it’s really good,” Sever said. “We got off to a really good start. When they strike back and bring it close, we had to strike back and keep it going. It felt really good starting out the game strong. Hopefully we can use this momentum going into the tournament.”
Bradley was the ninth seed for last year’s district tournament but got upset in the second round.
Heading into this year’s postseason, the Jaguars are the eighth seed, but aren’t expecting the same type of ending.
After playing non-league Newark, the 11th seed in the district, on Saturday, Bradley closes the regular season Feb. 17 at home against Dublin Coffman.
“The major takeaway is that we can beat anybody anytime, anywhere,” said Norris, who finished with 30 points. “When we play our best, we can be really good and we can do something special in the tournament. We finally got stops and didn’t give them any easy scores. When you can get stops defensively, it translates to the offensive end. It all flows and it all started on the defensive end.”
Orange, which had a six-game winning streak snapped, got a pair of 3-pointers by senior forward Drew Ballinger in the third quarter, but made just one other 3 during the game’s remainder.
Lewis and Joy both scored 10 points, Ballinger had nine and senior forward Nick Chapman added eight for the Pioneers, who play New Albany on Feb. 14 in a non-league game and close the regular season Feb. 17 against Olentangy Liberty, the district’s No. 2 seed.
The Pioneers still are waiting for the return of senior guard Mikey McCollum, who was their leading scorer through six games, but has been out since then with an ankle injury.
“Cade was really, really tough tonight,” Calo said. “I told him after the game that (he) did an amazing job against us both times. He was composed.
“What I want to do is move forward. We have to dive into the film and have to continue to get tougher and execute both our offensive and defensive game plans. We want to learn and move forward.”