Following their 70-66 overtime loss to Wilton on Thursday, Norwalk senior Saeed Soulemane said the Bears needed to share the burden of the defeat, a game that went an extra quarter after Norwalk guard Jabari Dear missed two free throws with 1.2 seconds left in regulation.
“We can’t blame him missing the free throws and say that’s the reason why we lost. There are other key reasons why we lost the game. Like maybe not helping on defense,” Soulemane said.
The 6-5 Soulemane said the Bears came out flat in the first half, both in terms of energy and in terms of accuracy from the field.
“We played well in the second half, but most of the time if you don’t come out hard for all four quarters you’re not going to win. If we had played hard from the beginning of the game, the results probably would have been different.”
Soulemane is good friends with Dear, and has confidence Dear will come through if that opportunity presents itself again.
“All I told Jabari is to just keep his head up, because usually he knocks that down with ease.”
With 6-5 Zach Laurinaitis out sick, Wilton had to lean on senior Olandi LeGrand to keep Soulemane and Roy Kane (also 6-5) off the boards for Norwalk. The duo had a number of put back scores, but it would have been worse without the effort of LeGrand, who at one point had to briefly leave the game after fighting for a rebound and landing flat on his back.
“Olandi played a tremendous game, nearly killing himself,” Wilton head coach Joel Geriak said. “He’s been our unsung hero this year. He boxes out and jumps with anybody in the league, for a kid who’s 6-1. He’s listed at 6-3, but he’s not.”
Norwalk coach Tom Keyes said his team didn’t exploit the size mismatch that Soulemane had on LeGrand.
“It would have been nicer to throw the ball inside more,” Keyes said. “I don’t think we did a good job of getting inside where we had the mismatch. Everything Saeed was getting was coming off of rebounds. It was almost like our team was making Saeed work too hard to get the ball, when we should just get it into him.”
Norwalk’s inability to stop Wilton on offense contributed to the Bears’ offensive malaise, Keyes said.
“Because we couldn’t stop them on defense, we allowed them to set up their defense. If we were able to get some baskets in transition, that helps us out. There really wasn’t much ball movement up at the top of the zone tonight. I think in the second quarter we just settled for 3s,” Keyes said.