Record-Courier staff report
The Ravenna Ravens had a lot going for them in their showdown with Norton for the PTC Metro Division lead on Saturday.
The Ravens were the two-time defending division champions, they were playing on their own floor and they had a six-game division winning streak.
What they didn't have, however, was the experience of the Panthers. In the end, that proved to be the difference as Norton rallied from an early 15-point deficit to capture a thrilling 51-50 victory on a 3-point, buzzer-beating bucket by the Panthers' Cara Cook that broke the Ravens' hearts.
With the win, Norton improves to 8-0 in the division (9-4 overall) and now holds a two-game lead in the division as Ravenna falls to 6-2 in the Metro and 8-6 overall. Both of Ravenna's division losses this season have come at the hands of Norton, with the first coming at Norton on Dec. 5.
"It was a great game," said a dissappointed Ravenna head coach Sonny Tilden. "It was a shame that somebody had to lose. Both teams played well, for the most part, but we made a lot of mistakes in the second half and it cost us the game."
The Ravens jumped on the Panthers in the first quarter, taking a 17-2 lead and still held a 31-16 advantage at intermission.
However, the veteran Norton team did not panic and turned up the defensive pressure on the young Ravens in the second half. Ravenna finished with just six more turnovers (22-16) than Norton, but most came in the second half to let the Panthers back in the game.
"I think our youth showed in the second half," said Tilden. "We had a hard time holding onto the ball against their pressure. (Norton's) veteran players showed leadership and stepped up in the second half."
Despite being outsocred 12-6 in the third quarter, Ravenna never trailed in the game and held a 50-48 lead and possession with the clock winding down in the final quarter.
Unfortunately for Ravenna, they committed its final turnover of the game with 3.8 seconds remaining and the Panthers got the ball to Cook whose shot from behind the arc found the bottom of the net as the buzzer sounded.
Cook finished the game with 17 points and a team-leading seven rebounds. Jaclyn Fortner led Norton with 18 points.
Sophomore Deja Sanders paced the Ravens with 15 points, while freshman Taylor Geib grabbed a game-high 11 boards.