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Norwin girls beat Penn Hills to advance to WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinals

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Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, 10:33 p.m.

With an 11-day layoff between the end of the regular season and beginning of the postseason, Norwin girls basketball coach Brian Brozeski worried about his team getting off to a slow start.

As it turned out, start of the game wasn't a problem. The end almost was.

No. 6 seed Norwin (17-5) started hot but needed to stave off a fourth-quarter comeback by Penn Hills in a 55-48 victory Tuesday in a Class AAAA first-round game at Plum.

“We were really happy with the way the girls just kept fighting through there,” Brozeski said. “We went ahead, (but) we knew that was going to be a dogfight going into the game.

“Penn Hills is a very talented team, and they kept fighting to the end. The girls did a nice job of responding.”

The Knights started hot offensively, as a 12-2 run midway through the first quarter enabled them to take a 22-12 lead after one quarter.

Norwin widened its lead to 35-19 by halftime, thanks to five 3-pointers, six points off turnovers and four second-chance points in the first half.

The offense dried up in the third quarter, as Penn Hills began applying more pressure. Norwin scored just six points in the third quarter, but the Knights' defense held Penn Hills to five.

“We stopped getting the ball to the glass, and they amped up the man-to-man pressure,” Brozeski said. “You've got to give them a heck of a lot of credit because their defense was sound and they hit the glass well.”

Penn Hills made its push in the fourth quarter.

Behind guards Jade Ely and Desiree Oliver, who combined for 19 points in the quarter, Penn Hills went on an early 11-2 run. A separate 9-1 run, capped by an Ely layup, made the score 53-48 with 15 seconds left, but Alayna Gribble sealed Norwin's win with two free throws.

“We're a tough-minded group,” Penn Hills coach John Tate said. “We're not going to ever quit. We knew we'd make a run. I knew we'd come back and make it a ball game. A little play here, a missed front end of a one-and-one, a layup that we leave on the table (might have made the difference).”

Oliver scored a game-high 21 points for Penn Hills (14-9), and Ely added 19.

Gribble scored nine of her team-high 18 points for Norwin in the fourth quarter, with Delaney Arbore adding 13.

With the win, Norwin advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals for the first time since 2008. The Knights will play No. 3-seeded Fox Chapel on Friday, at a time and site to be determined.

“This is a big win, just because it's good experience for the girls,” Brozeski said. “You get a couple more practices in, and you increase that learning curve. These girls put so much time and effort and hard work into it, and it's nice to see them being rewarded.”

Doug Gulasy is a freelance writer.

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