Freshmen shine as Norwin girls work overtime for win
Over the span of one game, Norwin's girls went from shaky to superb.
The Knights rallied from a first quarter without a field goal to force overtime and eventually won, 58-52, over Shaler in their season opener Friday at the Penn-Trafford Tipoff Tournament.
Freshman Alayna Gribble scored 23 points, including seven in overtime, in her varsity debut for Norwin, and senior Nikki Ingel chipped in with eight points, four assists and a team-high nine rebounds for the Knights. Shaler was led by Courtney Bauer, who had 17 points.
“It was a great game to be a part of, whether you were in it, coaching it or watching it,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. “Both sides really played their hearts out, and what really paid dividends for us was our depth.”
“Most of our close games last year, we couldn't finish them out, and we ended up losing,” Ingel said. “It feels real good to finish that one.”
The Knights used 11 players in the game, and though they struggled on the offensive end early in the game, Norwin's defensive performance helped to keep the team in position to win. Norwin finished the game with 10 steals and outrebounded the Titans, 43-33.
“We base our whole game around defense,” Ingel said. “We don't try to reach in and take the ball; we just try to keep pressure on them to force them to turn the ball over themselves. Our defense is definitely what got us back into that game.”
That pressure began to pay off in the second quarter, when Norwin went on a 9-0 run that was sparked by good foul shooting and a 3-pointer by Gribble. The first half ended tied, 21-21, and by the end of the third quarter, Norwin had taken a four-point lead.
Shaler opened the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run of its own, and with 3:15 left in regulation, Norwin trailed, 43-38. Gribble scored the next four points, and Amanda Batey put the Knights back ahead before the teams traded foul shots to reach a 45-45 tie.
Both teams had chances to score in the final minute of regulation, but the game headed to overtime when Gribble's desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer was long.
Abbey Conrad scored first in the overtime period for Shaler, but Norwin took the lead for good on a 3-pointer by Ingel. Gribble and fellow freshman Dominique Petach scored the Knights' remaining 10 points in the extra frame, as the two freshmen partnered with Ingel and Batey, a sophomore, to consistently break Shaler's full-court press.
“The whole team has done a nice job to make sure our freshmen don't feel like freshmen out there,” Brozeski said.
“Both Dom and Alayna hadn't been on the varsity court, but they have competitive basketball experience. The seniors have really done a good job taking them under their wing, and (the freshmen) get confidence from knowing their team is behind them.”
Gribble again led the Knights in scoring with 13 during the team's second game on Saturday, a 49-35 loss to Plum, as the first-year player continued to show she could score against older competition at the varsity level.
“I've seen these (freshman) girls play since they were little. I've grown up with them, so I know they can play, and I respect them a lot,” Ingel said. “It doesn't matter who is scoring, we've got to do whatever it takes to get the ball in the hoop.”
Norwin got off to a slow start for the second straight game — they trailed, 16-4, after one quarter — but a second comeback wasn't in the works on Penn-Trafford's newly-renovated floor.
The Knights move quickly into Section 1-AAAA play this week, as they go on the road to Latrobe at 7:30 p.m on Thursday.
The game is slated to be the third this week for Norwin, which had nonsection games against Bethel Park and North Allegheny scheduled for earlier this week.
Norwin fell on Monday to Bethel Park, 64-55. Scoring information from the game was not available at press time.
The game against North Allegheny was scheduled for Tuesday, after this edition's deadline.
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.