Norwalk forward Saeed Soulemane scored 11 points in a 63-58 loss to Fairfield Prep in the Class LL state tournament first round on Tuesday. (Photo by Amy Mortensen)
Could the fourth quarter possibly have played out any other way?
The final minutes of Norwalk’s Class LL state tournament opener against sixth-seeded Fairfield Prep included the drama that most casual observers come to expect in the postseason.
For the Bears, the night was no different than any other this year. A considerable underdog as the No. 27 seed, they fell behind by 17 points in the third quarter but soon enough they found themselves within reach. Just one more shot might have made all the difference. Then again, we’ll never know.
The Bears lived dangerously one too many times this season, with games swinging wildly one way or another late. On Tuesday, before a packed house at Alumni Hall, it caught up to them.
“We fought hard. That’s what happened the whole season. We let teams get a good lead on us and we fought back in the fourth quarter. But we came up short today,” said forward Roy Kane Jr., following Norwalk’s 63-58 loss to Prep.
William & Mary-bound swingman Terry Tarpey again served as the leader for everything Prep did, adding another 26 points to his ledger. You got the sense that if Tarpey didn’t score, no one on Prep would.
Norwalk never lost sight of the moment, even when Prep appeared to be in the final stages of writing the obituary to Norwalk’s season with an 11-0 run in the third quarter. The Bears fought back but the bucket that they needed the most was nowhere to be found in the final seconds.
They were close, but in the end, being close wasn’t enough.
“The story of our year. One bounce here, one bounce there and this is a lot more fun,” Norwalk head coach Tom Keyes said.
The ending served as a bitter finale to a rollercoaster of a season for Norwalk. For three quarters it appeared as though that ending was going to play out quite differently, but the Bears had other ideas. Their 9-0 run to begin the fourth swayed the score, the momentum and very nearly the game.
“They knew they had to play their greatest game to make it a game, and to their credit they were down 14 or 15 in the third quarter and they came fighting back,” Fairfield Prep head coach Leo Redgate said.
Norwalk fought back, and eventually tied the score 55-55 late in the fourth, but it was unable to do much more. The opportunities soon ran out and so did the time on its season.