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Norwin girls look to benefit from strong nonsection schedule

| Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
Latrobe's Taley Dunaway fights for a loose ball with Norwin's Julia Carter (15) and Dominique Petach on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, at Norwin.

The Norwin girls basketball team put itself to the test in the nonconference portion of its schedule with games against ranked opponents Plum, Shaler and Bethel Park — the defending WPIAL Class AAAA champion.

While the difficult early slate worked out to a 1-2 record at the beginning of conference play, the Knights held their own against those opponents, beating Plum and falling to Shaler and Bethel Park by three and nine points, respectively.

That kind of experience can help Norwin later, coach Brian Brozeski said, and it's already paying some dividends. Norwin (3-2, 2-0) opened section play with a 75-33 victory over Latrobe last week, and the Knights followed that up with a 69-65 triumph over defending section champion Hempfield on Monday.

“We like challenges, and believe me, we got a heck of a challenge at the beginning of our year with our schedule,” Brozeski said. “We like playing against teams like that so that way, we know how we can improve. That way, we can compete and start being named as one of the better teams in the WPIAL.”

Despite 11 consecutive WPIAL playoff appearances, Norwin still is working to be considered one of the top teams in Class AAAA. The Knights, who began the season unranked in the Trib Total Media Class AAAA rankings, won their first postseason game since 2008 last season and are hoping to make an even further run in 2013-14.

“We have a lot of good leadership in the senior ranks and junior ranks, and we have a lot of hungry younger freshman and sophomore girls,” Brozeski said. “We're really looking forward to this season and the future in general. But we've got to, in the same respect, stay focused.”

Brozeski said he used the nonconference slate to get most of the players on the court and see how well they worked together.

“We wanted to try to get as many girls through and get a feel for what their strengths are and how they can contribute to the team,” he said. “That way, when certain situations arise, we know who we can plug in who can help the team to the best ability.”

Brozeski was able to do the same thing in the win over Latrobe. Much of the team's roster got on the court against the Wildcats, and reserves Laura Buchanan and Danielle McMaster each scored a team-high 12 points.

“A lot of things go unnoticed — making the extra pass, being the one to set the pick or even just starting our transition correctly with a good outlet pass,” Brozeski said. “A lot of those little things help contribute, also, not just getting in the scorebook. But I'm sure it's a nice little reward for them when they do get in the scorebook.”

Brozeski said the team's defensive effort was also strong against Latrobe, as the Knights forced the Wildcats into a high number of turnovers and converted many of them into easy baskets. After a slow start — Norwin trailed 10-9 after the first quarter — the Knights came on strong, outscoring the Wildcats, 52-16, over the second and third quarters.

“It's one of our better performances, and it's going to be an ongoing process,” Brozeski said. “Hopefully each game is going to end up being one of our better performances, and that's what we look for. First, you've got to have the effort, and second, you've got to be in the right spots. ... I like the way we're headed.”

Norwin, tied for first place in the section with Penn-Trafford, will travel to play Connellsville (1-4, 0-2) on Thursday.

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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