Hempfield uses poise, patience to hand Norwin its first loss
Friday, December 20, 2019 | 10:37 PM
It was one of those games where the simplest tasks seemed the most difficult to execute.
Passes, layups, even rebounds did not come easy. Nothing was crisp.
What did seem to work smoothly for Hempfield in its section opener at Norwin, however, was how its seniors handled a double-digit lead.
Experience won out for the poised Spartans, who handed Norwin its first loss with a 48-35 victory Friday night in Section 3-6A.
“We really defended well, I thought,” Hempfield coach Bill Swan said. “Our seniors have been playing together awhile. We had seven guys who played their hearts out.”
A big second quarter for Hempfield (3-4, 1-0) was the difference in a mostly stagnant offensive game.
“Hempfield is one of the top teams in the section. They were all-around deeper and better,” Norwin first-year coach Buddy Valinsky said. “They controlled the tempo and were led by their seniors. We really only have one guy (Ty Bilinsky) with any varsity experience. It was a a big stage under the bright lights. We shot 28%. Both teams played well defenively and our kids played hard until the end.”
Offense slowed drastically in the second half as both teams tried to run halfcourt sets. Hempfield was able to maintain a double-digit lead and protect the ball for the most part, eventually salting it away with free throws — and some patience.
Norwin (6-1, 0-1), meanwhile, struggled to shoot from 3-point range — its bread and butter most nights — and relied on slashing drives by Bilinsky, who had a game-high 16 points, as it played from behind.
Norwin, which had not started 6-0 since the 2014-15 season, was never able to push back and start a run.
“We didn’t score much in transition,” Swan said. “There’s something about when we come here. We’ve been preparing for this game for a long time. It’s a lot sweeter. We were 0-1 (at the holiday break) last year. Christmas will be nicer and Sue Swan (his wife) will be happy.”
Junior Christian Zilli led balanced Hempfield with 13 points, while seniors Marcus McCarthy and Drew Coletta had seven apiece.
Seven Spartans found the scoring column in a collaborative effort.
Hempfield made five 3-pointers to Norwin’s two, and made 6 of 9 free throws in the fourth.
Freshman Adam Bilinsky had nine points for Norwin.
“In this section, you’re going to see a lot of well-coached teams and good defense,” Valinsky said. “We need to be a better shooting team. We thought if we held them under 53 (points), we’d be OK. But we didn’t shoot it. I knew we weren’t going to go 22-0, but we need to improve on some things.”
Hempfield got hot early in the second quarter and parlayed the spark into a game-changing run.
Down 8-7, the Spartans reeled off 10 straight points and then extended the spurt to 18-2 and built a 25-10 advantage.
Coletta, Zilli and senior Mikey Gaffney (2) all hit 3-pointers as the momentum mounted.
The Spartans limited Norwin to six points in the second quarter.
The lead remained at double figures the rest of the way with Norwin only able to cut it to 10 three times, the last on a drive and score by Adam Bilinsky.
Hempfield and Norwin were even in scoring in the second half at 21-21.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
More Basketball• Sto-Rox hires Aliquippa’s Dwight Hines, all-time scorer Kerry Connolly as basketball coaches
• Western PA Bruins players continue to gather basketball offers
• If PIAA shuts down, AAU teams, other private programs could flourish
• Central Catholic basketball transfer Langston Moses eligible for regular season, WPIAL says
• With allegations behind him, Nick Lackovich returns as Aliquippa boys basketball coach