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Losing streak strikes Norwin boys basketball

| Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

From top of the table to fighting in the pack, much about the season outlook has changed in two weeks for Norwin boys basketball.

After winning five consecutive games to open the Section 1-AAAA season, Norwin has lost four straight section contests entering this week, the most recent being a 64-59 setback at Latrobe in a snow-postponed game played on Saturday.

Curtis Perz had 23 points to lead all scorers for Norwin (8-8, 5-4), and Matt Stewart scored 12 for the Knights. Latrobe (10-8, 5-3) had four players score in double figures led by Blake Reaping, who scored 15.

The Knights haven't been outplayed by much during the losing streak, which began with the team's 10-point loss to Penn-Trafford. Since then, Norwin lost at Hempfield by six, at home against Kiski Area by three and at Latrobe by five, as the close games that went the Knights' way in the first half of the season suddenly have turned against them.

“To be honest, not much has changed,” Norwin coach Lynn Washowich said. “All of those games that we won were decided by a possession or two, and now we're losing games by a possession or two.

“We knew that we could lose all four of those games, but I don't think any of us imagined we would lose all four, especially all four being close. We've just told the kids to keep working and keep getting better.”

The streak has dropped the Knights from first to fourth in the section standings, but with only two games separating them from first place, Norwin still could top the section or finish out of the playoffs completely by season's end.

To avoid the latter option, Washowich said, the team needs to become a more complete offensive unit rather than rely only on the scoring of Stewart and Perz.

“The biggest difference we've seen in the second half of the year is how people are guarding us. It's not a dramatic change, but teams are doing a good job of packing the middle and taking away the post and penetration,” Washowich said.

“Matt and Curtis have led us in scoring every game, and we've talked extensively about needing more guys to take shots and make shots. It can't be one or two kids, we need to have a third kid step up and be another double-digit scorer for us.”

The Knights have two weeks and six games left in the regular season to remedy their offensive troubles, the first of which was a nonsection contest against Franklin Regional scheduled for Wednesday, after this edition's deadline.

Norwin next hosts Albert Gallatin in a section game at 7:30 p.m. Friday, and it goes into the contest with the knowledge that the team can't miss the playoffs if it wins its final three section games.

But Washowich admitted that sneaking into the playoffs as a fourth-place team isn't what the Knights hope to do, especially when the Quad-A landscape is considered. In last year's playoffs, top-seeded Shaler was the only top-eight seed to reach the semifinals, and it's very possible that this year will yield a similarly upset-laden bracket in February.

“We talk about winning all our games. Winning games like against Franklin Regional might not count in the standings, but it helps us get as good a seed as we can for the playoffs,” Washowich said.

“It's pretty common knowledge that in Quad-A, you don't want to see (No. 1) New Castle. But apart from them, and possibly North Allegheny, there's not a lot of separation between all the playoff teams. We need to win all our remaining games so the committee will take notice and hopefully we can get a better seed.”

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or mgrubba@tribweb.com.

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