Norwin boys weather Plum as leaky roof moves game to auxiliary gym

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Friday, January 12, 2018 | 10:55 PM


Norwin's game against Plum on Friday featured elements seemingly out of the theater of the absurd:

A changed time because of the weather.

A different location because of a leaky roof.

A seemingly inadvertent buzzer-beater.

However unusual the circumstances, Norwin will accept the result.

Josh Ratesic scored a game-high 25 points, and the host Knights earned a much-needed Section 3-6A victory with a 70-57 triumph over visiting Plum.

“It's a needed win,” Norwin coach Lynn Washowich said. “You're on your home floor, we just dropped several section games in a row and to try to stay in the mix that's a basketball game you just had to win. Our kids knew it, the coaches knew it.”

Norwin snapped a two-game losing streak and stayed in sixth place in the section, a game behind Fox Chapel and Penn-Trafford heading into important road games next week against Hempfield and Penn-Trafford.

“We really needed it to get back into contention in the section,” Ratesic said. “Some of these next ones are pretty big for us, so this win gave us a little boost.”

With those road games on the horizon, the Knights (7-6, 2-4) needed to defend their home court and did so … in a fashion. The teams played in Norwin's auxiliary gymnasium after a leak was discovered during the junior varsity game. Playing in the smaller gym, Norwin never trailed while playing perhaps its most complete game of the season.

“It's small and tight in there, (and) it's real hot,” junior Gianni Rizzo said, “but it was good to get everyone packed in there.”

Norwin put the cramped confines to good use, with the Knights' pressure defense forcing Plum into 19 turnovers. The Knights' size also made a difference on defense and the boards.

“The question is why we couldn't get the same number of turnovers and the same type of intensity,” Plum coach Hart Coleman said. “That's one thing we're consistently talking about. We've just got to find that intestinal fortitude and have some dog in us, have some pit-bull type of mentality and just be willing to fight.”

Ratesic scored 17 of his points in the first half to help stake Norwin to a 36-26 halftime lead. But Rizzo also contributed with an unlikely buzzer-beater at the end of the first half.

Plum (5-8, 0-6) cut Norwin's lead to seven points and had a chance to make it even closer, but a Mustangs ballhandler fumbled the ball. Rizzo picked up the loose ball and hesitated before heaving a one-handed baseball shot from three-quarters court. It banked in at the buzzer.

“I probably won't make that ever again in my life,” Rizzo said. “That was just — (I) said a prayer, threw it up and it went right in. Why not? One second left, a full-court shot, (it) went in. It was great.”

Norwin maintained the double-digit lead throughout the second half, with the advantage growing to as many as 18 points in the fourth quarter. The Knights reached a season high in points, more than 22 above their season average, by using ball movement to get the ball down low for layups.

Jayden Walker added 12 points for Norwin, and Rizzo had nine. Nine players scored for the Knights.

“Our ball movement tonight was very, very good,” Washowich said. “We've played against some zone this year, but I thought by far this was the best we've moved the basketball against the zone.”

Lamar Whiting scored 19 points — 15 in the second half — and Chase Fink added 13 for Plum, which lost its third consecutive game.

“We're going to have our ups and downs, and we're going to have our share of wins and losses, hopefully, before the season is over,” Coleman said. “That's the goal. We just continue to stay optimistic.”

Norwin has a chance to move up in the section next week; the Knights are ahead of Hempfield in the standings and defeated Penn-Trafford earlier this season.

The key for Washowich is consistency.

“I still thought we played well, but I thought we had too many careless turnovers,” Washowich said. “I thought our defensive pressure was good, but I thought at times we were lazy. We gambled at times we didn't need to. You have to get better.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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