Norwin's victory keeps Penn-Trafford out of postseason
Norwin's first win in six boys basketball meetings with Penn-Trafford might have been sweet for the Knights, but it was every bit as painful for the Warriors.
The Knights held off a third-quarter rally by their rivals and maintained a slim lead to the finish, as they closed the Section 1-AAAA season with a 66-61 win at home over P-T on Friday.
Curtis Perz led all scorers with 23 points, Matt Stewart scored 18, and Nick Idele had 17 for Norwin (12-9, 8-4), which clinched sole possession of third place after Latrobe lost to Hempfield on the same night.
“Just the fact that we're in the playoffs is the biggest thing. That's your first goal in any season,” Norwin coach Lynn Washowich said. “I don't know beating Penn-Trafford is as much of a big thing for us as getting into the playoffs is.”
Dorian Stevens scored 15 points, Andy Abreu had 14, and Corey Stanford put in 13 for Penn-Trafford (13-9, 6-6), which will miss the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs after finishing fifth in the section.
“We knew there were five quality teams in our section, and you can't look past Connellsville, especially at their place,” Penn-Trafford coach Ryan Yarosik said.
“What it comes down to is that you have to take care of your home court and steal a few games on the road. We did well at home, but we only won on the road at Albert Gallatin, and that was the difference for us.”
Norwin pulled out to a 32-24 lead at half on the strength of its inside scoring, something it struggled to find in the first meeting between the teams this year, a 64-54 P-T win.
“We changed a couple of things about what we do, not just for against (P-T), but to make us better going into the playoffs,” Washowich said. “Everyone knows Stewart and Perz can score for us, but if we can get Idele scoring for us inside, it makes us a much better team.”
The Warriors closed the gap to one point, 44-43, by the end of the third quarter and appeared to have the momentum going their way, as they did in the fourth quarter of the first meeting.
Norwin responded to the challenge with two big hoops to start the last quarter, including a 3-pointer, as it kept Penn-Trafford from ever taking the lead in the second half.
“We pulled within one, and we felt if we got the lead, we'd be able to stretch it out,” Yarosik said. “But came out hit a big 3-pointer and got a defensive stop on the other end.
“Give Norwin a lot of credit. They played a very fundamentally sound game and stayed focused for four quarters. It was a hard-fought rivalry game, and it's not that we weren't focused, but at time our emotions got the best of us.”
Norwin held on for the win in yet another close game, as every contest it played against a team in the top five of the section was settled by 10 points or fewer. That experience in close games could help the Knights in a Quad-A tournament field that has a clear favorite in New Castle and plenty of parity after that.
“Quad-A basketball is a 32-minute game,” Washowich said. “You have to make every possession count, and these kids have a good idea of how to make everything count to win close games.”
While the consensus is that New Castle will be the No. 1 seed and Latrobe and Canon-McMillan — the two fourth-place teams with double-digit losses — will be the bottom two seeds, where the middle seeds fall for the Quad-A playoffs was anyone's guess prior to the pairings meeting.
The WPIAL playoff brackets were scheduled to be released on Tuesday night, after this edition's deadline. To see the full brackets, visit www.wpial.org.
“Third place does mean a little bit in the seeding, but I've been in this 15 years now, and just when you think you figure it out, the committee does something different,” Washowich said.
As for Penn-Trafford, the season ends with the disappointment of watching the playoffs from the outside, and for seven seniors, a Saturday nonsection loss to North Allegheny, 78-54, will go in the books at their final game.
But after winning a section title in 2012 and improving the team from a 5-16 record three years ago, the Warriors' coach said, his group of outgoing players should remember the successes during their four years.
“The toughest thing was addressing those seven seniors after the (Norwin) game. I told the kids, you try to take this as a life lesson, and the lesson is that there are no guarantees,” Yarosik said.
“We had a lot of great battles wtih Hempfield, some great rivalry games with Norwin and won a section title. These guys are going to walk out of here with a lot of good moments to remember.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.