Last-second shot stops Norwin's bid for upset of USC
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Norwin executed its game plan to perfection, but even a perfect plan is no match for making shots.
Jordan Grabowski knocked down a 3-pointer with 2.4 seconds remaining to give fourth-seeded Upper St. Clair a 57-56 win over Norwin in a WPIAL Class AAAA first-round game at Gateway High School on Saturday.
Joel Klein led all scorers with 24 points on eight of the 13 3-pointers made by USC (20-3), which advanced to face 12th-seeded Seneca Valley, a 72-41 winner over Central Catholic, in the quarterfinals this Saturday.
Though Klein had the hot hand, it was Grabowski with the ball in his hands on the final play with an option to pass or shoot on a screen-and-roll. The senior chose to pull up for the shot near the top of the arc, and he connected on only his third field goal of the game.
“Jordan didn't have one of his best games, but when it counted, I wouldn't have had it any other way,” Upper St. Clair coach Danny Holzer said.
“If it's late in the game, we want to get the ball in his hands, set a ball screen up top and let J.J. (Conn) and Joel (Klein) spot up. Then we just let Jordan make a decision whether he wants to take the shot or make the pass.”
Norwin (13-10) had one last chance to win and ran a play for its senior leader and Wheeling Jesuit recruit, Matt Stewart, who led the Knights with 22 points.
After a first attempt to inbound the ball was tipped away, Nick Idele threw a high, 60-foot pass that Stewart caught over two defenders with 1.3 seconds left. Stewart turned to fire an off-balance shot that hit the side of the rim and bounced away to end the 13th seed's bid to snap Upper St. Clair's winning streak, which now stands at 17.
“It would have been a tough shot for him to make, but when I saw it in the air, I thought, ‘Oh my God,' ” Holzer said. “It was only 1.3 seconds, but it seemed like an eternity.”
“It looked like he had it at the end, but we needed to stay focused earlier when we had a chance to win the game,” Norwin coach Lynn Washowich said.
Curtis Perz scored 14 points, and Zach Bryan had 10 for Norwin, which outrebounded Upper St. Clair, 31-18.
The Knights used their size advantage to clog the lane and force USC to settle for outside shots. That strategy helped Norwin build a nine-point lead in the first half, but USC rallied for a 32-30 halftime lead behind Klein, who scored 12 points in the second quarter.
“Give a lot of credit to Norwin and Coach Washowich. They did everything they had to, and they deserved to win the game. We just hit a big shot at the end,” Holzer said.
“(Norwin) is a big team, and they're not just big, but thick. They made it very difficult for us to get anything inside 12 or 15 feet, but our team just finds ways to win.”
Norwin had a chance to put the game away after a pair of free throws by Bryan gave the Knights a 55-52 lead in the final minute. Klein then missed a 3-point shot, and the Knights grabbed the rebound.
The Knights tried to get the ball up the court quickly before USC could set its full-court pressure, but an outlet pass for Perz was overthrown, and the Panthers got the ball back with 22.2 seconds left.
“You've got to give them a lot of credit. They had to shoot the ball very well to beat us,” Washowich said.
“I just feel awful about the end of the game. I should have utilized the last timeout we had. We had a guy open, and we thought the game was over because we had their pressure broken. We really felt like we had the game won.”
With Norwin guarding the perimeter after the turnover, Upper St. Clair got a quick layup by Conn to cut the lead to 55-54. The Knights inbounded the ball to Stewart, who was fouled and made 1 of 2 free throws, which left the window open for Grabowski's winning shot.
Despite the heartbreaking end to the contest, the Knights will be able to look back on a successful season in which the team reached the playoffs for the fourth straight year. Norwin also ended the regular season with five straight wins, including a playoff-clinching win over Penn-Trafford, the Knights' first in three years.
The team graduates only two players from this year's team, Stewart and Idele, but the contributions of those two 6-foot-5 seniors has been a sizable one.
“I guess it wasn't meant to be,” Washowich said. “I told them they should not have any regrets. They played as hard as they could play, and they executed the game plan.
“That's why we love sports so much. It's an opportunity in life to put on a performance, and they did that today. They performed, and they really gave these fans something fun to watch.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Grodz resigns as Charleroi Area coach
- Teams set mark for 3-pointers as East boys nip West, 110-109, in Cager Classic
- Montgomery’s 3s help team to Cager Classic win
- Cager Classic notebook: Highlands, Mars players bury hatchet for the weekend
- Kittanning senior Kunst shoots lights out at Cager Classic skills event
- Bordonaro boosts East girls to 79-72 victory in Cager Classic
- Greensburg Central Catholic boys basketball squanders early lead, bows out of state playoffs