Big 2nd half allows Norwin girls to pull away from Butler

Saturday, March 6, 2021 | 7:08 PM

Halftime speeches and the adjustments that accompany them have helped many a WPIAL basketball team advance in the postseason.

After a sluggish first half Saturday afternoon against Butler, Norwin had a heart-to-heart at the break and reversed course for another trip to the semifinals.

In a flurry, the third-seeded Knights turned a seven-point game at halftime into a runaway as they charged past No. 6 Butler, 53-33, in a Class 6A quarterfinal in North Huntingdon.

Norwin (13-4) moves on to play at No. 2 Upper St. Clair (15-2) at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Norwin also made the semifinals in 2014-15, ’15-16 and ’18-19.

Freshman forward Lauren Palangio continued to flourish in a starting role she took on after sophomore Savannah Schneck went down with an ankle injury. Palangio had 17 points, senior guard Mara Polczynski had 13 and junior guard Brianna Zajicek added 11.

What was said at halftime can stay in-house. But whatever it was, it worked.

“We knew we had to come out strong,” Polczynski said. “We had been coming out slow in the third this year. Today, we ended up coming out with a burst of energy.”

Leading 26-19 against a team it blew out in two Section 1 games, Norwin opened the third with a 13-0 run to stretch the lead to 39-19.

Butler (10-9) staggered and could get no closer than 14 the rest of the way.

“We talked about coming together as a team,” Zajicek said. “We were more spread out in the first half, so we needed to stay in the gaps and pressure them more on defense.”

Butler could not keep up with the constant pressure from Norwin and turned the ball over on several possessions.

“It was different today with the (larger) crowd,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. “There was actual fan noise, and maybe that led to the shaky start. I think we eventually settled in and played our typical game.”

Palangio had nine points in the second half, six in the third when the Knights seized control for good. She answered a pair of Butler 3-pointers with field goals to maintain a 16-point spread, and her three-point play early in the fourth made it 49-28.

Senior guard Danielle Rosso was a floor leader for the Knights as she helped set up shots, rather than take them. She scored nine points.

“There was never a doubt with our effort today,” Brozeski said. “Any time you see an opponent multiple times and have some success, you can’t just think it’s going to happen automatically. Our bench played really well for us. They have been getting reps in every day, and its shows.”

Norwin also played without junior Alyssa Laukus, a usual starter who missed her second straight game with an ankle injury. Junior Maggie Race played in her place.

Senior Sarayne Forbes led Butler with 12 points, including three 3-pointers. Junior Makenna Maier was held to six points after scoring 25 in a 48-36 first-round win over Hempfield.

The Golden Tornado beat Penn-Trafford twice this season.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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