Knights open with win at P-T tourney
Norwin's defense made things rather unpleasant for Mt. Pleasant.
The Knights allowed eight points or fewer in every quarter and controlled the glass to win its season opener over the Vikings, 43-26, on Friday in the Penn-Trafford Tipoff Tournament.
Curtis Perz led Norwin with 16 points in his first game for the school, and Matt Stewart overcame early foul trouble to finish with 14 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Cody Monroe led Mt. Pleasant with 11 points.
“It's definitely good to get back into the swing of things for the upcoming season,” Stewart said. “Playing against each other in practice, you get used to the guys you're going against. It's good to have that first game to iron out the kinks and improve.”
Norwin's offense took some time to get moving — the Knights' lead was only 17-12 at halftime — but the defensive work by the Knights was strong from the opening tip.
“The kids were anxious, and you had a bit of those first-game jitters,” Norwin coach Lynn Washowich said. “But our kids hung in there. They stayed patient, and we hit them with a little run in the third quarter that was too much for them to overcome.”
Stewart's offensive day was, in many ways, a reflection of the team's.
The senior was strong on the boards when he wasn't on the bench with two early fouls, but he was limited to just two points at the break. In his place, Perz picked up the scoring along with Steve Socrates, who had six of his eight points on a pair of first-half 3-pointers.
“It's great to have a teammate like (Perz), who can get some points, get some rebounds and is just a tough all-around kid,” Stewart said. “It's huge when we get scoring from other guys because it makes us more versatile and it makes the other team have to worry about everybody, not just one or two guys.”
After halftime, Stewart came out with a pair of early 3-pointers to extend Norwin's lead, and that stretched the Mt. Pleasant defense enough to open up the passing lanes in a third quarter won by the Knights, 18-8.
Norwin's ball movement was excellent throughout the game, as the team finished with 14 assists on 17 field goals, led by Stewart and Zach Bryan, who each had four.
Norwin had a 38-28 edge in rebounding, as well, but the margin was even larger before Mt. Pleasant began to attack the offensive glass more urgently in the second half.
“We've worked extremely hard on playing defense effectively, and we did well tonight, but we still had about five breakdowns where we didn't rotate and gave up penetration,” Washowich said.
“I also thought we outplayed them, rebounding-wise, in the first half, but in the second half, we didn't do as good of a job. Still, we gave up 26 points, so that's very good.”
The game nearly had a highlight-reel moment in the fourth quarter when Perz threw an alley-oop pass to the rim for a cutting Stewart, but the senior was unable to slam the ball home on the receiving end. The two successfully switched roles for Norwin's final basket, as Perz converted with a catch and layup in mid-air on a pass from Stewart.
“We're going to work on that,” Stewart said with a laugh. “I'm going to get that slam down by the end of the year.”
The Knights met a much stiffer challenge for their second game of the season when they faced Class AAAA No. 2 Hampton at P-T on Saturday.
Norwin kept pace with the Talbots for much of the first half, but Hampton turned up its defense in the third quarter to pull away for a 62-47 win.
Stewart led Norwin with 15 points, Alex Haas scored 12, and Perz added 11 against Hampton. Ryan Luther, the Talbots' 6-foot-8 forward, led his team with 15 points.
Norwin was scheduled to play in Franklin Regional's tournament on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, after this edition's deadline. The team next jumps into Section 1-AAAA play with a tough opening contest at home against Hempfield on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.