Penn-Trafford girls run past rival Norwin
The Penn-Trafford and Norwin girls teams were evenly matched in the half-court game, but when their matchup turned into end-to-end basketball, the Warriors' strength was apparent.
P-T took an eight-point lead to halftime but blew the game open after the break, as the Warriors raced away for a 62-36 win over their Section 1-AAAA rivals at home on Jan. 15.
Taylor Cortazzo led all scorers with 19 points, Maria Palarino scored 16, and Maddy Mossellem scored 11 for the Warriors (13-2, 8-1). Madi Guffey led Norwin (8-8, 6-3) with 11 points and a game-high eight rebounds.
Penn-Trafford led at halftime, 30-22, but in the second half, the Warriors pulled away with defense that held Norwin to 14 second-half points, and that led to easy baskets of their own in the open floor.
“We just focused more on our defense in the second half,” Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas said.
“(Norwin) did a good job of taking away our transition in the first half, but in the second half, we rebounded better, and that led to transition baskets. In the first half, they killed us on the boards.”
The final rebound total — 35-31 in favor of the Knights — was an edge Norwin built up by using their height advantage and getting offensive boards, but once P-T improved its play on the defensive glass, the Knights got pulled into the sort of fast-break game that favored the Warriors.
“We have strengths with our height and our rebounding, but we have to use those things to our advantage,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. “Once we fell behind a little bit and had to press, you could really see how good Penn-Trafford is at running the floor.”
P-T didn't just look to run on its defensive stops, it took advantage of the break even after Norwin hoops. On back-to-back made baskets by the Knights in the third quarter, the Warriors were able to have a player — first Cortazzo, then Nicole Hyland — slip behind the defense and score an uncontested layup on the other end.
“We did a good job getting the rebounds, but we also did a better job in the second half of spacing for the outlet passes and getting up the court,” Giannikas said.
Penn-Trafford backed up that win with two more section wins against the bottom teams in the standings. P-T topped Laurel Highlands last Thursday, 76-25, and Connellsville on Monday, 62-30.
Cortazzo and Hyland each scored in double figures in both of the wins, which puts Penn-Trafford on a six-game winning streak since losing to Hempfield on Jan. 4.
“We expect to compete every night, and the two games we did lose, we had a chance to win but have some things to fix,” Giannikas said. “What I like is that we're getting a little bit better every game, and that's what I want going into the second half of the season.”
Norwin recovered from its loss with a 65-33 win over Latrobe last Thursday, but the Knights fell on Monday to section-leading and No. 5-ranked Hempfield, 50-42, to virtually end the team's section title aspirations.
Rachel Keto scored double-figures in each of the last two games, and Alayna Gribble posted 21 points in last week's win for the Knights, who remain in possession of third place in the section.
“Whether we win or we lose, we're sticking to the same plan of trying to get better every day,” Brozeski said.
“There's things from this (Penn-Trafford) loss that we can learn from, but it's the same after wins. We're going to keep doing what we've been doing, and that's work hard in practice to get better.”
Norwin travels to Connellsville for a section game this Thursday at 7:30 p.m., while Penn-Trafford travels to Kiski Area at the same time for its final game before the highly anticipated rematch with Hempfield, at home on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.