Freshman Pepple leads Penn-Trafford girls past rival Norwin

Monday, January 18, 2021 | 9:38 PM

When rival teams such as Penn-Trafford and Norwin get together, the simplest things can seem challenging. Cross-court passes, press-breaking plays and even the easiest-looking layups are contested.

“It’s 32 minutes of grind,” Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas said.

Penn-Trafford freshman guard Olivia Pepple did not seem to have much trouble with the pressure.

The moment wasn’t too big for the first-year player, who scored 19 points to help Penn-Trafford push past fourth-ranked Norwin and stay unbeaten with a 50-46 victory in a Section 1-6A game Monday night in Harrison City.

“I was a little nervous coming in, but my teammates always lift me up and always support me, whatever I do,” Pepple said. “I have been working hard, getting shots up outside of practice, so that really boosted by confidence coming in knowing it was a big rivalry.”

Penn-Trafford (5-0, 4-0), in Class 6A for the first time, also got 13 points from senior guard Allie Prady, who made 4 of 4 free throws in the fourth, including two with 20.9 seconds left to make it 48-46.

Pepple, who went 7 of 7 from the free-throw line, made two more with 4 seconds left to seal it.

“She came in every day for the past week to shoot on her own … and tinker with her jumper,” Giannikas said. “It’s a perfect example of when you’re committed to something, things pay off.”

Norwin (4-1, 3-1) kept getting close in the fourth, but the Lady Warriors refused to surrender the lead.

“We were outexecuted and outhustled,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. “They took our heart away. They came out swinging, and we didn’t answer the bell.”

Norwin has been one of top defensive teams in the WPIAL, holding three opponents under 30 points. But Brozeski didn’t think his team played at its usual pace and did not send Penn-Trafford a message early.

Penn-Trafford, off to its best start since 2012-13 when it started 7-0, defeated Norwin, 51-50, last year.

“We knew it was going to be like a boxing match,” Giannikas said. “Everything was earned.”

Prady made one of her three 3-pointers to stretch it to 44-38 and then hit two free throws for a 46-40 advantage. But Norwin responded as Maggie Race, who had all seven of her points in the fourth, drove in to trim it to 46-44 with 29 seconds left.

Penn-Trafford made sure Norwin didn’t regain the lead, it’s last coming at 25-24.

Sophomore Lilian Palladino also played well for the Warriors with eight points.

Pepple scored eight in the third to help the Warriors build an eight-point lead. She was fouled on a jumper and fell backward but made the basket and the subsequent free throw to make it 35-27 with 1 minute, 24 seconds left in the quarter.

“That was one of the best jumpers I’ve seen,” Brozeski said.

Norwin scored consecutive hoops, including one off a steal by Danielle Rosso, to trim the margin to 35-31 heading to the fourth. Rosso was the only Norwin player in double figures with 12. Alyssa Laukus scored eight, and Savanna Schneck and Brianna Zajicek had seven apiece.

Maura Suman battled to rebound her own miss and put it back to beat the second-quarter buzzer and get the Warriors within 22-21 at halftime, when the lead never grew above six.

Norwin led 10-9 after a jittery first quarter.

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

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