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Norwin's focus at defensive end could play key factor in section play

| Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, 10:12 p.m.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Norwin guard Curtis Perz is defended by Hempfield guard Nate Irwin during their Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, game in North Huntingdon Township.
Norwin forward Matt Stewart drives by Hempfield guard Tyler Handlan during their Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, game in North Huntingdon Township. (Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review)
Norwin guard Nick Idele comes up with a loose ball in the midst of the Hempfield defense during their Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, game in North Huntingdon Township. (Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review)
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Norwin guard Curtis Perz pulls up for a shot over Hempfield forwards Matt McCoy (left) and Mike Nauman during their Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, game in North Huntingdon Township.

The Norwin and Latrobe boys basketball teams are scheduled to square off in an early season showdown for first place in Section 1-AAAA Friday.

But unlike the 2010-11 season when the teams tangled in a 115-110 overtime win by Norwin, defense will determine the winner.

In six games, Norwin (4-2, 2-0) has held four opponents to 46 points or less, including 26 to Mt. Pleasant in the season opener and 28 at Kiski Area on Tuesday.

That's a far cry from the 2010-11 season when Norwin averaged 77.9 points per game and allowed 75.9.

Matt Palo and Andy Carter, who led the Knights in scoring that season, are playing college basketball.

The philosophy, like the players, has changed at Norwin.

“We've told the players don't give up easy shots,” Norwin coach Lynn Washowich said. “Make sure the shots they take are away from the basket. Kiski had a horrible night from the 3-point line on Tuesday.”

Norwin, which defeated Kiski Area, 37-28, caught some attention Dec. 14 when it defeated Hempfield, 48-45.

Washowich couldn't stop talking about his team's defensive effort after that game, coming after two poor defensive performances at the season-opening Franklin Regional tournament. He seemed shocked that his team held the high-scoring Spartans to 45 points.

“Defensively, we've been pretty good in four of the games,” Washowich said. “We held down Mt. Pleasant, and most of Hampton's points (62) came off turnovers. Against Monessen and Franklin Regional, we were slow on our rotations.”

Against Hempfield, Curtis Perz and Matt Stewart led the offensive attack. While Hempfield concentrated on stopping Stewart, who finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds, Perz, a sophomore transfer from Greensburg Central Catholic, picked up the slack by scoring 19.

Perz is averaging 15 points per game and Stewart 14.

“Curtis has the ability to take the ball to the basket and make a 3-pointer,” Washowich said. “The offense still needs to improve. We know Curtis and Matt will score, but Zach (Bryan) and Nick (Idele) are capable scorers too. We have players who fit certain roles.”

Washowich said he didn't know Perz until he transferred. But it didn't take him long to recognize a talented player.

He now has a nice one-two punch in Perz and Stewart.

“We have a lot of the components to be a good basketball team,” Washowich said. “But will still have a lot of room for improvement both offensively and defensively.”

Latrobe (3-2, 1-0) has won its past two games, including a victory against Greensburg Salem on Tuesday.

The Wildcats opened the season with a win at Farrell on Dec. 7 and beat Kiski Area in section play.

Blake Reeping scored 21 points in Latrobe's 69-55 victory against Greensburg Salem. Ben Havrilla added 16 and sophomore Matt Cullen, who also transferred from Greensburg Central Catholic, added 13.

Latrobe coach Brad Wetzel said he was pleased when his team played its tempo.

“This section is very good,” Washowich said. “It's important to win your home games. If we would have lost to Hempfield at home, it would have been tough to bounce back.”

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at pschofield@tribweb.com or 724-836-5095.

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