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Basketball

Norwin girls basketball rolls to first-round win in WPIAL playoffs

| Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, 11:33 a.m.
Norwin's Alayna Gribble drives to the hoop during a WPIAL Class AAAA playoff game against Gateway on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, at Hempfield High School. The Knights defeated the Gators, 66-33.
Lou Raggiunti | for the Tribune-Review
Norwin's Alayna Gribble drives to the hoop during a WPIAL Class AAAA playoff game against Gateway on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, at Hempfield High School. The Knights defeated the Gators, 66-33.
Norwin's Dominique Petach controls the ball during a WPIAL Class AAAA playoff game against Gateway on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, at Hempfield. The Knights defeated the Gators, 66-33.
Lou Raggiunti | for the Tribune-Review
Norwin's Dominique Petach controls the ball during a WPIAL Class AAAA playoff game against Gateway on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, at Hempfield. The Knights defeated the Gators, 66-33.

The Norwin girls basketball flexed its muscle and showed why it is the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs last week as it rolled to a 66-33 win over Gateway at Hempfield.

“We mentally stayed focused on the task at hand,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. “We went through some adversity early on. I liked how the girls bounced back and kept focused on our goals.

“I was pleased to see their effort stay continuous throughout the game.”

The game remained fairly close in the opening half thanks to the scrappy play of Gateway. After the Knights forced seven turnovers and built a 14-5 lead after one quarter, Norwin's lead grew to 17 early in the second frame after a Dominique Petach putback.

But the Gators stormed back and outscored the Knights, 14-7, to head into halftime down 12.

“At the beginning out transition wasn't working really well,” Petach said. “We were trying to get the ball up but (Gateway) was guarding us tightly. After halftime, we started to get the ball down deep and running our transition.”

Once the second half started, Norwin was in full control. The Knight started the half on a 15-2 run to put the game out of reach.Sophomore Magen Polczynski hit a 3-point in the final seconds of the third quarter to put the Knights ahead 57-27.

“Some beginning-of-the-game jitters and excitement led to us not executing like we like to do,” Brozeski said. “We came out in the second half and did what we do naturally. The girls were executing better.”

The Knights defense remained fierce throughout the game, holding Gateway to under 30 points until the final minutes and after the starters were pulled from the game.

Petach led the team with 15 points. Alayna Gribble added 13 and Jenna Cole finished with 12.

“The defense sparks our offense,” said senior forward Taylor Sabol, who finished with 9 points. “We try to lock down on defense and get the rebounds. We get a lot of steals and turnovers out of our defense to get the offense going.”

Norwin will need to continue to bring its defensive pressure throughout the playoffs. The Knights are surrendering just 31.8 points per game – the lowest average in Class AAAA.

“Defense is what will win the championship,” Brozeski said. “Whatever team plays the best defense will be the champion.

“Any given night, you never know how the ball will go in the hoop for whoever. You need to bring your defense.”

After winning the WPIAL title and making it to the PIAA semifinals last season, the Knights will look to use that experience to their advantage.

The run was the first time since 2007 that Norwin played more than two games in the postseason.

“I think we are still nervous coming into games,” Petach said. “But I think it helps in playoff games when it comes down to it that we haves played in these kind of games before.”

The four senior starters – Gribble, Petach, Cole and Sabol – will look to continue leading the Knights to success this season. In addition to helping win the WPIAL title last season, the seniors led the team to its first outright section title since the 2009-10 season.

“This is their final run,” Brozeski said. “I feel like a basketball dad who has four kids who are getting ready to go onto college. I am sitting back and enjoying watching them.

“I like how they feed off each other and play off each other's energy. That's what is really fun to watch.”

Next round: Mt. Lebanon

The Blue Devils (14-8, 10-4) finished tied for third place in Section 4-AAAA and is on a four-game winning streak.

Mt. Lebanon defeated North Hills, 54-45, in the opening round of the playoffs. Holding a one-point lead after three quarters, the Blue Devils outscored the Indians, 16-8, in the fourth quarter to secure the win.

Junior forward McKenzie Bushee led the team with 22 points. Sophomore guard Kate Sramac finished with 10. The duo have been the team's most consistent scorers. The duo have averaged more than 26 combined points per game this season.

Norwin and Mt. Lebanon last played in the 2012 playoffs with the Blue Devils rolling to a 70-38 win.

Time and location of Friday's game were unavailable at press time.

Nathan Smith is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at nsmith@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.

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