Building blocks in place for Norwin boys basketball

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Friday, February 7, 2020 | 6:52 PM


Norwin’s boys basketball team bolted out to a 6-0 record and won eight of its first nine games this season.

Led by former City League coaching stalwart Buddy Valinsky, Norwin enjoyed its best start since 2014-15.

The Knights then jumped into the heart of their grueling, grinding Section 3-6A schedule in early January. That’s when their inexperience became a factor and may have caught up to them.

Norwin’s varsity roster consisted of seven juniors, four sophomores, one freshman and one senior, Nathan Petrarco, a 5-foot-8 point guard.

Petrarca is a standout lacrosse player who returned to basketball after two years away from the sport.

The Knights, who relied heavily on the 3-point shot, finished 3-7 in the section despite posting a winning 12-8 record through 20 regular-season games.

Norwin missed qualifying for the WPIAL tournament by one game.

“I thought we’ve had a very good season considering we didn’t have many varsity players returning from last year,” said Valinsky, who was 226-97 in 12 seasons at Allderice, his alma mater, and coached the Dragons to six straight league titles prior to taking over at Norwin this season.

“Our goal was the WPIAL playoffs,” Valinsky said. “I thought our section games were much harder to win then the nonsection games.”

With everyone but Petrarco returning in 2020-21, the Norwin boys hope to make a strong playoff push next season — the second year of Valinsky’s five-year improvement plan.

Valinsky replaced Lynn Washowich as Norwin’s floor boss. Washowich resigned last offseason after coaching the Knights for 17 years, compiling a 223-173 record and advancing to the WPIAL playoffs 12 times.

“We only lose one starter, so next year, we should much farther ahead,” Valinsky said. “It’s been a very good first year, and I’m looking forward to Year 2.”

Norwin’s leading scorer this season was 5-9 junior Ty Bilinsky, an athletic forward who averaged over 15 ppg. Bilinsky, a wide receiver/cornerback on the football team, was the only Norwin hoopster with varsity experience at the start of the season.

Other integral players on this year’s squad included junior forwards Jayden Walker, Nick Fleming and Josh Govannucci along with junior guards Josh Williams and Alex Gabauer, a Penn baseball recruit.

Walker is a 6-3 frontcourt standout who was an all-section selection as a sophomore. He missed the first 10 games in 2019-20 recovering from a baseball-related shoulder injury.

Govannucci, at 6-4, is the tallest player on the team. Fleming, a quarterback and outside linebacker, also is a football player.

The top freshman prospect in the Norwin hoops program is Adam Bilinsky, a 5-10 backcourt player who earned valuable varsity time this season.

Others looking to make contributions in the Knights’ backcourt next year include junior Conor McCutcheon and sophomores Michael Fleming, Luke Levendosky, Ty Stecko and Dominic Barca.

Norwin was slated to wrap up its schedule with nonsection games at Baldwin (Feb. 7) and at home against Seneca Valley (Feb. 10).

After a run of seven consecutive playoff appearances from 2009-10 to 2015-16, the Knights will be looking to reverse their recent trend on the hardwood next winter.

The Knights, who improved from an 8-13 record in 2018-19, have missed the postseason in each of the past four years.

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