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Norwin girls reflect on season's first half

| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 10:50 p.m.
Norwin's Rachel DelleFemine goes up against Laurel Highlands' Kaitlyn Thurby during a game against Laurel Highlands at Norwin on Monday, January 7, 2013. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review

Win or lose, Norwin second-year coach Brian Brozeski likes his team to take a 24-hour respite to reflect on its previous game.

After Tuesday's 62-36 loss at Penn-Trafford to wrap up the first half of Section 1-AAAA play, it was a perfect time to gain perspective.

“The biggest thing is to not get too emotional after a win or a loss,” Brozeski said. “You take that time and make sure you have a chance to look back on it and really break down what happened and see if the mistakes are correctable, and that's the big thing. We're like every team and we're making mistakes, but they're all correctable and we're taking the strides to get those corrected.”

It has been an uphill battle for Norwin (7-7, 5-2) as the team opened the year 1-3 and has been struggling to stay near .500 throughout. The Knights have only won consecutive games once, on Jan. 3 and Jan. 7 in section games against Albert Gallatin and Laurel Highlands, but despite that they are in third place in the section and are in line for a playoff spot.

What made the Penn-Trafford loss so disconcerting was that this was the first time all season Norwin suffered a blowout. Four of the Knights' previous six losses were by single digits, including a one-point nonsection defeat against Woodland Hills and a five-point loss to first-place Hempfield.

Their worst loss of the year prior to this was to Trib Total Media Class AAA No. 4 Elizabeth Forward, 56-41, in the championship game of the Betsy Invitational, which is the Warriors home holiday tournament.

Now that Norwin has made the turn into the second half of the section schedule and will host Latrobe at 7:30 p.m. Friday, the team has become acutely aware of what it needs to do to move past those tough losses and possibly compete for its first section championship since 2010.

“It's going to sound basic, but a lot of it comes down to the basic fundamentals and I'm not trying to cop out,” Brozeski said. “We need to finish around the rim on our layups because we've been missing like 18 or 19 putbacks a game, and that's a huge difference. We have to take a little bit of extra time because sometimes we're trying to do a little too much on the run, and one of the things that we're trying to correct is to go slower.”

That does not mean Norwin, which is averaging 52.6 points, will want to abandon its fast-break transition game to play more half-court offense.

“We hope that by playing a little more balanced and under control that the game can still be fast but seem slow to them,” Brozeski said. “We preach to them that they should be playing the game ahead of time mentally before it happens physically.”

One cause for optimism is the impressive play of 5-foot-10 freshman guard Alayna Gribble, who leads the Knights with 14.2 points per game. Considering she was just getting used to the speed of the high school game in the first half of the season, she could be ready to break out as the Knights make their stretch run to the WPIAL playoffs.

“She can play both sides of the ball very well,” Brozeski said. “One of the things she's been working on is making the good pass for an assist, and she's become a complete player. We're more than satisfied with her progress so far.”

While Gribble has paced the offense, she's gotten help from senior forwards Rachel DelleFemine and Rachel Keto. And, considering how deep and experienced Norwin is, there is a possibility the Knights could be a sleeper once the playoffs open.

“The girls have been progressing every day, and we're just trying to keep them going in the right direction,” Brozeski said. “As long as they keep giving the effort, I'll be happy no matter what the outcome.”

Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @KBarnes_Trib.

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