Despite heavy graduation loss, Norwin boys basketball reloads to compete in Section 2-6A

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Friday, November 24, 2023 | 12:57 PM


With only one player back who saw varsity playing time and a roster scrubbed clean by graduation, the Norwin boys are rebuilding but not panicking.

“Teams and players are a lot different in February than they are in November,” third-year coach Lance Maha said. “This doesn’t freak me out.

“There is no beating around the bush: I doubt there is anyone in the WPIAL with more inexperience than we have.”

Still …

“I am confident we will compete for a playoff spot, no question,” Maha said. “The competition level is way up in practice and that is a good thing.”

Senior Noah Wilson is the only player with varsity time. He averaged about two points a game.

“Our program is in a good place,” Maha said. “Our sophomore and junior classes are solid. We’ll get contributions from both classes. There are a lot of guys close in ability.”

Replacing standout and four-year starter and TribLive Westmoreland player of the year Adam Bilinsky (Mercyhurst) is no easy task. The offense ran through him and the Knights reacted to his every move. The athletic guard averaged 20.5 points and 10 rebounds as Norwin finished 14-9 and lost to top seed New Castle in the quarterfinals of the Class 6A playoffs.

Guards Ryan Edwards and Justin Weaver also leave a noticeable vacancy in the lineup.

Senior Jackson Pons, a key reserve swingman last season, did not play basketball this season because he is enrolling early at Miami (Ohio), where he has a football scholarship as a safety.

Senior Luke Denny, who had a career year in football — watch his highlight tape — is healthy and ready to contribute around the rim in a Pons-like role.

Maha also has junior guard Alex Wiggins, senior guard Dylan Trent-McCullough and sophomore guards Chris McKnight and Alex Graney.

“It’s our third year so we know the kids well,” Maha said. “We see there are some program guys, and we value what they bring. We’re going to play differently (style wise).”

Other potential contributors include four sophomores in Mario Csukas, Nathan Kuch, Stefano Giannikas and Max Levendosky.

“Our sophomore class is deep.” Maha said. “There are some solid players there and they are neck-and-neck with the juniors and seniors.”

The Knights limited opponents to 50.3 points, the third fewest in 6A.

Norwin has not won a playoff game since 2007-08. The Knights have 10 straight one-and-dones in the postseason.

Chris Cappazzoli has joined the coaching staff and will serve as the junior varsity coach.

Norwin boys basketball at a glance

Last year’s record: 14-9 (5-5 Section 2-6A)

Returning starters: None

Top newcomers: Luke Denny (Sr., F), Alex Graney (So., G), Christopher McKnight (So., G), Dylan Trent-McCullough (Sr., G), Alex Wiggins (Sr., G), Noah Wilson (Sr., G)

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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