By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
There’s no stopping a team of destiny.
The 2022 Norwood Pirates, never fazed by a late-game deficit, certainly fit that label.
Trailing by five with 2:38 left in regulation, Norwood delivered another late comeback to defeat Bernie 64-63 on Saturday night at JQH Arena in the Class 2 Show-Me Showdown championship game.
“It’s almost like the Basketball Gods were on our side all season,” said Norwood coach Shane Chadwell. “Several people told us it was our year. I think they were just being encouraging to us, but at the end of it all, I truly think it was our year.”
The victory gives Norwood its first state championship in any boys’ sport. The Pirates made their first final four appearance in basketball just one year ago, when they took third place.
Norwood endured seven straight losing seasons until the program’s turnaround began in 2020 with an 18-10 record.
“We’ve had some rough years at Norwood basketball,” said Norwood senior Max McGowan. “To come in and turn the program around, it’s a great accomplishment. We were just kind of happy to be here last year. To come up here and win it all this year, it’s a great feeling.”
Norwood senior Garrett Davault, the program’s all-time leading scorer, finished just shy of a triple-double with 24 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
He was front and center in the game’s decisive play.
With 24 seconds left and Norwood trailing 63-62, Pirates freshman Peyton McDaris stole the ball at half-court and found Davault for the go-ahead layup.
“I was actually yelling, ‘Foul! Foul!’ because that (Bernie) kid had just missed a free throw,” Davault said. “But then our freshman made a big play, like he has all year, and he got that ball.
“The first thing I thought when I got the ball was, ‘Dunk!’. But then I’m like, ‘Nah, I better just put this one in.’”
Bernie missed a shot in the final seconds and Davault grabbed the rebound as time expired to secure Norwood’s first state championship.
CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS OF THE GAME
Bernie (29-2 overall, No. 7-ranked in MBCA Class 2 state poll) hadn’t trailed since early in the fourth quarter. Kamden Powell’s 3-pointer put Bernie ahead 58-53 with 2:38 remaining.
Norwood, which used fourth-quarter rallies to beat College Heights Christian in the quarterfinals and Bishop LeBlond in the semifinals, had more late-game magic left in the tank on Saturday.
“I don’t know (how it keeps happening),” Chadwell said. “It almost comes down to, ‘It was our time.’ We have kids who are winners. They find a way to win. Credit them. They’re the ones who have to make plays.”
Free throws fueled Norwood’s comeback.
The Pirates shot 17-for-19 at the line overall; McDaris was 6-for-6 off the bench and made four free throws in the final 90 seconds to keep Norwood alive.
Norwood also shot 63 percent from the field in the second half.
Tristan Johnson led four Bernie players in double figures with 16 points.
“That game could’ve gone either way,” Chadwell said. “The Bernie Mules are a great, great basketball team. They could easily be sitting in this spot.”
Bernie did everything it could to take away Davault down the stretch. The Mules put two defenders on Davault in half-court situations, daring Norwood’s four other players to score against three defenders.
Pirates senior forward Jacob Sinning had 15 points and nine rebounds, with several of his baskets coming on lobs from Davault.
“We haven’t seen that a whole lot this year. It’s kind of surprising,” Chadwell said of Bernie’s defense. “We knew it was coming. We watched some film on Bernie and they had done that several times. We just told Garrett to trust his teammates and find them. He did that and his teammates stepped up.
“These players, ultimately, they’re all about the team. Whatever it takes to win. They knew that coming in. Unselfishness is a great thing and we had that.”
Bernie was 23-for-56 from the field overall, including 9-for-29 from 3.
Norwood, which didn’t make a 3-pointer in the win over Bishop LeBlond, had only one trey against Bernie.
The Pirates finish 31-1 overall and graduate a nine-player senior class, four of which are in the starting lineup.
“This championship is for the community, for the players, the school, the fans – everyone,” Sinning said. “We haven’t had a lot of success in recent years. To come do this, it’s crazy. I just hope (Norwood) can keep continuing it.”
Norwood 64, Bernie 63
Bernie 21 9 12 21 — 63
Norwood 14 14 17 19 — 64
Bernie (29-2 overall) – Tristan Johnson 16, Hunter Corzine 13, John Nimmo 12, Kamden Powell 11, Michia Schooley 6, Noah Foster 5
Norwood (31-1 overall) – Garrett Davault 24, Jacob Sinning 15, Gavin McGraw 11, Peyton McDaris 8, Justin Chadwell 6