Perz' sharpshooting leads Norwin to section win
The Norwin's boys basketball win over Connellsville played out like a typical action movie. The Knights spent the first half in an ugly situation and then shot their way out of it in the second half.
Curtis Perz nailed six 3-pointers on his way to a 25-point night that led Norwin back from a halftime deficit to a 56-36 win in a Section 1-AAAA home game Friday night.
Perz also had a game-high six steals for Norwin (8-4, 5-0), and Matt Stewart scored eight points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Knights. Trent Bauer led Connellsville (2-11, 0-5) with 12 points.
Both teams struggled mightily on the offensive end in the first half, but the Falcons' ability to get to the foul line helped them open up an 18-11 lead in the waning moments of the second quarter. For the game, Connellsville was 21 of 27 at the line, while Norwin was just 5 of 11.
Norwin had a tough time getting the ball inside against the Falcons' zone defense, and when the Knights did create outside chances, the shots wouldn't fall in the opening 16 minutes.
“We've seen a lot of zone this year, and we got a lot of good looks. Nothing went in the hoop the first half,” Norwin coach Lynn Washowich said.
“Connellsville is a big basketball team, and their basic premise is don't let you go inside. They make you beat them from the perimeter.”
Norwin's final possession of the half signaled a big change for the Knights, as Perz got free for a 3-pointer at the buzzer against a 3-2 defense from the Falcons. With the lead cut to four, the Knights knew what they had to do in the second half.
“At halftime, the coaches made some adjustments for us,” Perz said. “I started bringing the ball up, and we spread our other guards out to try and get more movement and make the zone shift.”
The Knights looked like a different team in the second half, as they began with Perz hitting an open 3-pointer from the top of the key on a nice kick-out pass from Nick Idele.
Perz' outside shots and a pair of mid-range hoops by Logan Deri pulled Connellsville away from the hoop and let Norwin get out and run.
A visibly fired-up Perz connected on another pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter, and Stewart went inside for two baskets during a 12-0 Norwin run that led to a 36-25 lead.
“That shot (at the end of the first half) was big for me, because for some reason, I don't play as good in the first half,” Perz said. “Once I got my shot going, I kept trying to shoot more. I was good on my release, holding my pose, and from there, I just kept trying to play my best.”
Connellsville had no answer for the Knights once the game began to open up, and for the game, Norwin held its opponent to only seven field goals.
“Once you hit a couple jumpers, it helps with the confidence, and you have to give our kids a ton of credit for the way they defended the basketball tonight,” Washowich said.
The win ensures that, regardless of Norwin's game at Penn-Trafford on Tuesday night, after this edition's deadline, the Knights will hit the midpoint of section play with at least a share of first place.
But with another seven section games remaining entering this week, including a road rematch with Hempfield at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Norwin's players and coaches know there is still a long way to go.
“We knew we had potential, and we're a solid nine or 10 players deep,” Perz said. “I don't know if we thought we would be 5-0 at this point, but we knew we had the ability to win all five games.”
“There's still a host of things we have to get better at,” Washowich said. “Our transition game is maybe a 1.5 out of 10, and we have to work more against zone defense.
“Yes, this week's games are big, but they're all big. We have one nice thing, and that is that we're the only team that holds our own fate. If we don't lose, we win the section.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.