For Norwin girls basketball team, there’s no substitution for depth

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Sunday, March 5, 2023 | 8:20 PM


Norwin likes to manage minutes, using group substitutions to keep the lineup fresh at all times.

It has become a way of life for the girls basketball team, which returns to the PIAA playoffs this week after three years away.

Watch a game, no matter its level of importance, and multiple substitutions are happening for Norwin.

Three in, three out is common. Sometimes, it’s five for five.

“It’s not just subbing just to sub,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. “Yes, it’s nice to keep the lineup fresh, but you want to put girls in situations where they can help us. If a team has more guards, we can throw more guards at them. If I trust you with how you perform in practice, I can trust you in games.”

Norwin (21-4) opens at Central Dauphin (20-5) at 6 p.m. Friday.

The hockey-line-change formula has worked all season, and it could help the Knights make another playoff push after falling short in the semifinals. Norwin stretched out its bench again in the WPIAL semis and in the third-place game last Wednesday when it defeated Mt. Lebanon, 56-43.

Ten girls played against the Blue Devils, from seniors Kate Botti and Savannah Schneck to freshman Ava Christopher.

The reserves, at times, are just as valuable as the starters.

When Norwin beat Baldwin, 57-26, in the quarterfinals, Christopher gave the Knights big minutes on both ends of the floor. She also played well against North Allegheny.

Sophomore Avery Brozeski shot the ball well against Baldwin.

Senior Tori Sydeski — one of three seniors on the roster — has been a 3-point threat off the bench, and sophomore Bella Furno knocked down a 3 against Mt. Lebanon.

“All the girls are capable of helping us,” Brozeski said. “But there are only so many minutes to distribute among them.”

Norwin, a team that returned one full-time starter in junior forward Lauren Palangio, has used the deep rotation to keep a defense-first approach moving forward.

Consider the depth a defense mechanism.

The 43 points by Mt. Lebanon were the most scored against Norwin since Bethel Park put up 45 late last month.

“We have a strong starting five,” Palangio said. “But we have a lot of girls who come in and know their roles.”

Coaches appreciate depth this time of year. It can be a precious thing.

Some teams trim their rotation to six or seven.

Norwin had depth in ’19 when it reached the quarterfinals of the state tournament.

The Knights had to travel to play Northhampton Area at Cumberland Valley.

“Our bus broke down on the way there, and we got there 15 minutes before tip,” Brozeski said. “I am all about following a tight schedule. The girls came out and played, and they were fine.

“Sometimes, the pregame plan is more therapeutic for the coaches than the players.”

Norwin’s starters and long bench is ready for a state run, although Friday’s opener will be the first PIAA go-around for every player.

“One of the things I like about states,” Brozeski said, “is fresh bodies in fresh arenas. You see new teams, and the girls see there are other ways to play basketball. This time of year shows you a lot about team growth and how far you’ve come as a group.”

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

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