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Norwin girls basketball team remains on course

Joe Sager
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North Allegheny’s Brynn Serbin fouls Norwin’s Jessica Kolesar Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 at North Allegheny High School.
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Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
North Allegheny’s Rachel Martindale steals a pass intended for Norwin’s Olivia Gribble Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 at North Allegheny High School.

In December, the Norwin girls basketball team’s goal was to use the regular season to get ready for the postseason.

The Knights feel pretty good about that in February. With only one loss through its first 19 games, Norwin believes it is prepared for a long playoff march.

“We always wanted to play our best basketball come playoffs. From the beginning of the season, we have grown a lot to reach our best basketball,” Norwin junior guard Jayla Wehner said. “We’re a really close team this year. We’re all in it together, and we all have the same goal to win. I feel like being so close really helps on the court.”

The Knights have done plenty of winning. After dropping a 55-44 contest at North Allegheny on Jan. 4, they responded with wins in their next 10 games, including a 44-43 home victory over top-ranked North Allegheny. Wehner scored the winning basket with 6.3 seconds to go in the thriller.

“It was a really good team win. Beating them gave us a lot of momentum,” she said. “It was nice to get revenge on them, but we just have to keep playing the way we have been and finish out the season strong and start all over again in the playoffs.”

The win over North Allegheny put Norwin in a tie for first in the Section 1-6A standings. Also, it put other teams on notice that the Knights are a contender for a WPIAL title.

“At the beginning of the season, we knew we had something to prove, and we’d be a good team from the beginning,” Wehner said. “Being able to show that by beating NA, I think people see how good of a team we are.”

Norwin coach Brian Brozeski believes his team understands it must remain focused despite its recent success to end the regular season.

“They have been doing a nice job all season with trying to take every week one step at a time. The win against NA is a nice feather in their hat. It’s a great symbol of how hard they’ve worked,” he said. “While it’s a nice way to end the regular season, we still have to take care of business, and the playoffs will be a mental challenge in addition to a physical challenge.”

The Knights have been able to build lineup depth, which has helped their playoff drive. Seniors Abby Best, Emily Brozeski and Jessica Kolesar join junior Olivia Gribble and Wehner in the starting five. Junior Cassie Cole, sophomores Mara Polczynski and Danielle Rosso and freshman Brianna Zajicek see minutes off the bench. All have contributed to one of the WPIAL’s top offenses.

“It’s been a nice complement for one another. There are nights where different people are on, or different nights where people are struggling. We’ve been able to pick each other up and spread the wealth around,” Brian Brozeski said. “It’s nice, too, when everyone you put out on the court is a threat to help the team score on any offensive possession.”

Norwin also ranks among the WPIAL’s best in defense.

“Being good on defense is really important to us. Once we get our defense going, our offense feeds off it,” Wehner said. “If we can stop teams from scoring, we know we have an opportunity to come down and score and pick up the tempo.

“Overall, we just have to keep pushing ourselves now.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.