Hempfield beats Norwin to move into 1st place tie

| Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, 10:46 p.m.

Hempfield dug in and withstood a late Norwin charge for a 56-50 boys basketball victory on Friday night, moving into a three-way tie with the Knights and Kiski Area for the WPIAL Section 1-AAAA lead.

Kason Harrell scored 20 points, including 11 in a row during a key Hempfield run in the second quarter, and the Spartans (11-4, 5-2) built a double-digit lead before holding on for their third victory in a row and fourth in the past five games.

“You saw a together-team out there,” Hempfield coach Jim Nesser said. “We're playing together on offense and together on defense. But the key to this game was that we rebounded the ball very well. We really controlled the glass.”

Tyler Handlan added 12 points for Hempfield, including 10 in the second half, when the host Spartans converted 18 of 23 free-throw attempts.

The victory avenged a 48-45 loss at Norwin on Dec. 14, the start of a four-game winning streak for the Knights, who had led the section from the start of the schedule. Since then, however, Norwin has lost four of six games.

“We're fortunate to have started off 5-0 for a little bit of a cushion,” Norwin coach Lynn Washowich said. “Right now, we're not very pleased with our basketball team. We've got to put more mental focus into it.”

Matt Stewart's 23 points led Norwin (8-6, 5-2), but he was the only Knights player to reach double figures.

“He played another great game for us, but you can't just rely on one or two players,” Washowich said.

Hempfield rallied from a 14-11 deficit in the second quarter, when Harrell connected on three consecutive 3-pointers, giving the Spartans a 22-14 advantage. They led at halftime, 24-18.

Norwin mounted a late comeback after trailing by as many as 13 points and closed to within 50-46 on two free throws by Alex Haas with 41 seconds left. After Harrell hit two free throws for Hempfield, Curtis Perz's jumper with 16 seconds to go got Norwin within 52-48.

But Mike Nauman answered with a pair of free throws with 10 seconds remaining to give Hempfield another six-point advantage.

Harrell scored all but two of his 20 points in the first three quarters, doing most of his damage in the second quarter, scoring 12 points.

“Sometimes he needs to be a little more aggressive on offense,” Nesser said. “Overall, though, he played a great game. They made an adjustment on him in the second half, but we were just relentless on the rebounding end of it, and that was the key.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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