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Basketball

Both 17-0, Norwin girls are No. 1 in the state while Latrobe boys seek respect

| Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, 10:27 p.m.

The Norwin girls basketball team was largely an unknown quantity to most outsiders at the start of last season.

“We weren't really on the radar as one of the top teams,” coach Brian Brozeski said.

The Knights were first across the finish line, alone and seen by all as WPIAL Class AAAA champions.

Latrobe boys coach Brad Wetzel can relate to part of that scenario. The Wildcats have raced to a 17-0 start this season. But are they being overlooked?

“I think there's some validity to that,” Wetzel said.

The Norwin girls also are unbeaten at 17-0. Both teams top the Tribune-Review Class AAAA rankings. Each has nearly identical credentials but not equal measures of respect.

Norwin began the season as a marked team. The bulls-eye has expanded.

“We've just got to expect we're gonna get everyone's best effort,” Brozeski said.

Latrobe is approaching that point. In the PIAA rankings by PennLive.com, based in Harrisburg, Norwin is No. 1. Latrobe has yet to appear in the Top 10.

“We were not well-known on the other side of the mountain, in the eastern part of the state,” Wetzel said. “They're probably still a little bit skeptical.”

Past performance, the more recent the better, helps enrich reputations. Norwin was a WPIAL champ last season. Latrobe's last WPIAL title came in 1985. Generally, girls teams from Western Pennsylvania lately have been more successful than boys teams at the state tournament.

“Even here in the WPIAL, leaving the borders of Allegheny County leaves some people suspicious (Latrobe is in Westmoreland County),” Wetzel said. “I think it's up to us to kind of change that mentality and just perform as well as we can and go as far as we can until people give us the respect that's due.”

Norwin already has achieved that, due in large part to senior Alayna Gribble, a 6-foot guard-forward headed to Pitt who averages 19.4 points.

“On the offensive side, she can do it all,” Brozeski said. “Inside, outside, penetrate, handle the ball, shoot, whatever you want to see. But where she's starting to grow is on the defensive side of the ball. She's really been a gem in all facets of the game.”

One of four senior starters, Gribble has plenty of help.

“The thing that makes our team a good, solid team is we have a lot of contributors across the board,” Brozeski said.

So does Latrobe, which plays fast and scores in bunches. The Wildcats are paced by the stellar guard trio of Austin Butler, Jake Biss and Sean Graytok. The rest of the squad knows their roles and what Wetzel expects.

“These guys are invested in the program,” Wetzel said. “They absolutely have invested their time and energy into this beyond what the average player is doing.”

Making a postseason run will require “staying with the mentality that got us here,” Wetzel said. “That's one game at a time. The battle cry is, let's play together for as many games as we possibly can.”

For Norwin, the formula is equally as simple.

“It's gonna be the same thing we've tried to carry on forever,” said Brozeski, in his fourth season as head coach. “And that's gonna be, never be satisfied. Always approach every practice and every minute with the fact that you have to get better.

“It's not gonna be status quo from here on out. Everyone's getting better.”

Bob Cohn is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bcohn@tribweb.com or via Twitter@BCohn@Trib.

Norwin's Alayna Gribble shoots over Penn-Trafford's Michelle Bosco on Wednesday Jan. 13, 2016 at Norwin High School. Norwin won 63-38.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Norwin's Alayna Gribble shoots over Penn-Trafford's Michelle Bosco on Wednesday Jan. 13, 2016 at Norwin High School. Norwin won 63-38.
Norwin head coach Brian Brozeski reacts after a play against Penn-Trafford on Wednesday Jan. 13, 2016 at Norwin High School. Norwin won 63-38.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Norwin head coach Brian Brozeski reacts after a play against Penn-Trafford on Wednesday Jan. 13, 2016 at Norwin High School. Norwin won 63-38.
(right) Norwin's Alayna Gribble (23), blocks Latrobe's Madison Kollar (30) during Monday's game, December 21, 2015, at the Greater Latrobe Senior High School.
Rebecca Emanuele | TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
(right) Norwin's Alayna Gribble (23), blocks Latrobe's Madison Kollar (30) during Monday's game, December 21, 2015, at the Greater Latrobe Senior High School.
Norwin's Alayna Gribble (left) brings the ball upcourt against Latrobe's Mackenzie Markle during a game Dec. 21, 2015, at Latrobe.
Rebecca Emanuele | TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Norwin's Alayna Gribble (left) brings the ball upcourt against Latrobe's Mackenzie Markle during a game Dec. 21, 2015, at Latrobe.
Latrobe head coach Brad Wetzel prays with his team in the locker room after beating Penn-Trafford on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 at Greater Latrobe High School. Latrobe won 74-68.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Latrobe head coach Brad Wetzel prays with his team in the locker room after beating Penn-Trafford on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 at Greater Latrobe High School. Latrobe won 74-68.
Latrobe head coach Brad Wetzel celebrates his win with his team in the locker room over Penn-Trafford on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 at Greater Latrobe High School. Latrobe won 74-68.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Latrobe head coach Brad Wetzel celebrates his win with his team in the locker room over Penn-Trafford on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 at Greater Latrobe High School. Latrobe won 74-68.
Latrobe's Jake Biss shoots around Penn-Trafford's Mike Barnes on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 at Greater Latrobe High School. Latrobe won 74-68.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Latrobe's Jake Biss shoots around Penn-Trafford's Mike Barnes on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 at Greater Latrobe High School. Latrobe won 74-68.
Latrobe's Ryan Soisson blocks the shot of Penn-Trafford's Sean Stinelli on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 at Greater Latrobe High School. Latrobe won 74-68.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Latrobe's Ryan Soisson blocks the shot of Penn-Trafford's Sean Stinelli on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 at Greater Latrobe High School. Latrobe won 74-68.
Latrobe's Austin Butler, center, celebrates with his team in the locker room after beating Penn-Trafford on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 at Greater Latrobe High School. Latrobe won 74-68.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Latrobe's Austin Butler, center, celebrates with his team in the locker room after beating Penn-Trafford on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 at Greater Latrobe High School. Latrobe won 74-68.
Latrobe amps up before playing Penn-Trafford on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 at Greater Latrobe High School. Latrobe won 74-68.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Latrobe amps up before playing Penn-Trafford on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 at Greater Latrobe High School. Latrobe won 74-68.
Latrobe's Austin Butler reacts with Sean Graytok after dunking over Penn-Trafford's Dom Coccincelli during their game Friday, Jan. 15, 2016. Latrobe won 74-68.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Latrobe's Austin Butler reacts with Sean Graytok after dunking over Penn-Trafford's Dom Coccincelli during their game Friday, Jan. 15, 2016. Latrobe won 74-68.
Latrobe's Sean Graytok reacts after a 3-pointer against Penn-Trafford on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 at Greater Latrobe High School. Latrobe won 74-68.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Latrobe's Sean Graytok reacts after a 3-pointer against Penn-Trafford on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 at Greater Latrobe High School. Latrobe won 74-68.
Latrobe's Sean Graytok reacts after a basket against Penn-Trafford on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 at Greater Latrobe High School. Latrobe won 74-68.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Latrobe's Sean Graytok reacts after a basket against Penn-Trafford on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 at Greater Latrobe High School. Latrobe won 74-68.
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