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Knights down Latrobe, eye winning out in Section 1-AAAA to make playoffs

| Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, 10:21 p.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Latrobe's Craig Stevens (41) battles Norwin's Nick Palo (30) for a rebound during their section game at Norwin on Jan. 24, 2014, in North Huntingdon. Norwin defeated Latrobe, 66-58.

Losing to Latrobe was not an option for Norwin junior Curtis Perz.

“Our season was on the line,” Perz said. “We knew if we dropped one more section game, we might not make the playoffs.”

The Norwin boys basketball team has three more Section 1-AAAA contests to go.

But after a pair of Perz 3-pointers keyed a 10-0, third-quarter run, the Knights handled the first part of their goal with a 66-58 victory over Latrobe Friday.

Perz scored a game-high 20 points, eight of them coming during the decisive third quarter.

“I definitely feel like when I start making shots I get more confidence,” Perz said. “When I get more confidence, I try and shoot more. Shots were falling, so I took it as it was coming. Helped spark a run.”

Logan Deri added 12 points and eight rebounds for Norwin (10-7, 4-5). Steven Socrates made four 3-pointers to finish with 12 points, and Zach Bryan added 10.

Norwin snapped a two-game losing streak — falling to Hempfield and Kiski Area — and ensured the teams would split the season series for the third consecutive year. Latrobe topped Norwin, 44-39, on Dec. 20, 2013.

Matt Dragan led Latrobe (8-7, 3-4) Friday with 19 points, but only four of them came after halftime; Norwin switched to zone and got more aggressive closing out Dragan's attempts. Matt Cullen (15 points) also was in double figures.

“We went to the zone a couple times in the first half, but we just didn't do a good job of finding their shooters. We got lost,” Norwin coach Lynn Washowich said. “I told them at halftime, ‘You play zone, their best shooter can't get a shot. If it is, it has to be contested.' ”

Cullen's 3-pointer tied the game at 40 with 2 minutes, 47 seconds left in the third quarter, but Perz knocked down a 3-pointer nine seconds later to push Norwin back in front.

His second — and fourth of the game — came 38 seconds later, giving Norwin a 46-40 lead.

Deri converted a pair of free throws and Nick Palo hit a layup to complete the run.

“It's nuts,” Deri said of the feeling his team gets when Perz starts making shots. “Especially when you start to hit a spurt and you start to find your momentum. I don't know. You get an adrenaline rush; it gets you going.”

Norwin kept the momentum in the fourth quarter and was never seriously threatened.

Socrates made a pair of 3-pointers to help Norwin build a quick 8-0 lead before a pair of free throws from Craig Stevens pulled Latrobe to within 12-10 at 3:34 of the first.

Cullen's trey from the top of the key tied it at 17 early in the second.

Perz and Deri combined to score all 11 of Norwin's points in the quarter, and the teams went into halftime tied at 28-28. Dragan led all first-half scorers with 15 points, going 7 for 7 from the free-throw line.

But his strong showing gave way to a rousing halftime speech from Washowich, who reminded his team that one section loss could eliminate it from the playoff race.

“We knew coming into this game, to get into the playoffs, if we won our last four, we were going to get in,” Washowich said. “Now the question is if you win out, now maybe you position yourself to get a little better seed.”

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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