Dominating defense carries North Allegheny to victory over Norwin
The Norwin boys basketball team prepared extensively for North Allegheny's defense in the days leading up to their meeting in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs.
The Knights found out quickly, however, that practice was no substitute for the real thing.
No. 3 seed North Allegheny (20-3) held Norwin to 36 points, its lowest point total since the first weekend of the season, and rolled to a 66-36 victory Wednesday night at Fox Chapel. The Knights lost in the first round of the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.
“We didn't turn it over a ton,” Norwin coach Lynn Washowich said. “We certainly committed turnovers. You know against a team like that you're going to commit some turnovers, but it just took us out of our rhythm, and we didn't just shoot the ball well.”
Using a full-court pressure defense that frequently trapped the player handling the basketball, North Allegheny gave Norwin's offense fits. The Tigers forced a 10-second violation on Norwin's opening possession and held the Knights (13-10) to five points in the first quarter.
The Tigers' strong defense helped them overcome a slow start offensively. Class AAAA's third-highest scoring team managed only 23 points in the first half, but North Allegheny still led by 10 at halftime.
Norwin cut its deficit to 18-13 late in the second quarter, but Zach Bryan was called for an offensive foul on a made basket that could have made it even closer.
North Allegheny responded by scoring the final five points of the first half and led by double digits the rest of the way.
“We did not shoot the ball well at all, but the defensive effort from the beginning to the end was tremendous,” North Allegheny coach Dave DeGregorio said. “We rebounded the ball. It's good for the kids to see even if we're not shooting the ball well, if we get after it on the defensive end we can win games.”
Washowich said the Knights tried to take away North Allegheny's outside shooting, and that part of the game plan worked; the Tigers made just two 3-pointers in the game. However, the penetrating ability of Mike Fischer, Luke Gwaltney and Mike Carter got North Allegheny's offense rolling.
The Tigers outscored Norwin, 23-15, in the third quarter, effectively putting away the game.
“They're 20-3 for two reasons,” Washowich said. “They play ridiculously hard on defense, and offensively, unlike most high school teams, when you take one thing away, they can score another way. … They just have so many players that can shoot and penetrate with the basketball.”
Fischer led North Allegheny with 14 points, and Gwaltney added 12.
Drew Morgan scored nine points to lead Norwin.
North Allegheny advances to the WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinals, where it will meet Hempfield on Saturday at a time and site to be determined.
“(When) you're in it, you've got to get the W, and then you move on to the next game right away,” DeGregorio said. “You forget about (tonight's game) real quick, and we prepare for whoever won that other game as soon as we get on the bus.”