High-scoring Hempfield boys hold off Norwin in section opener

Tuesday, January 4, 2022 | 10:14 PM

On two previous occasions this season, Hempfield scored 77 points — and lost.

The Spartans are playing an exciting brand of basketball with kickout 3-pointers, quick passes and transition layups, but they haven’t been getting the results they’ve wanted.

They had seen enough Tuesday night in the Section 3-6A opener.

“We play fast, and we like to run,” senior Sean Gordon said. “It’s nice to finally win one when we get into the 70s.”

Gordon scored 29 points, senior Joey Fiedor added 18 and junior Harrison Sowers had 15 — on five of the Spartans’ 11 3-pointers — as Hempfield held back the Knights, 77-72, at the Spartan Field House.

Gordon made four 3s. He had 20 in the first half for Hempfield (4-5, 1-0), which has two wins in a row for the first time this season.

“I didn’t want another 44-42 Norwin-Hempfield game,” Hempfield coach Bill Swan said. “I hate those games, even though we’ve won some. The alumni are calling and teasing me about how many points we’re giving up. I love the tempo. It’s fast. We’re moving and flowing. I like the way we’re flowing.”

Junior Adam Bilinsky scored 11 of his 25 points during Norwin’s 26-point fourth quarter, senior Michael Fleming had 22 points and Ty Stecko chipped in 14 for the Knights (3-4, 0-1). Norwin rallied from 13 points down to get within four during an NBA-like fourth quarter.

“We’re disappointed that we lost, but I am also optimistic,” Norwin first-year coach Lance Maha said. “Hempfield is going to be in the playoff hunt, the section hunt. Now they have to come back to us. We missed some defensive assignments in the first half, and they really shot the heck out of it. They’re a solid team. They’re experienced.”

Norwin used several steals to close the gap as Hempfield struggled to close the door, making just 2 of 9 free-throw attempts in the fourth.

A couple of press-breaking layups from Gordon and Chaz Ewer inside the final minute finally gave Hempfield some breathing room.

Ewer’s basket made it 75-67 with 29.6 seconds left.

Fleming, who scored nine in the fourth, made a 3 at the buzzer for the final total.

“I am pleased with a lot of what we did tonight,” Maha said. “We’re still a work in progress. I like how we’re competing.”

Swan was pleased with how the Spartans changed on the fly as Norwin altered its defense.

The Spartans made 11 of 17 3s.

“I think we were almost 100 percent against the zone tonight,” Swan said. “(Maha) changes his defense. I like to think we have a pretty good man-to-man offense. We can shoot it.

“We defended well. That’s as good as you can guard a 25- and 22-point scorer. We did everything to stop (Fleming), and he still scored 22.”

Fiedor scored eight in the fourth, knocking down pull-up shots and taking charge of the offense — with a green light.

“You could be Bob Kalp sitting in those bleachers and saying those are bad shots,” Swan said of Fiedor. “If he misses some, they are bad shots. That kid’s got a pedal, and I am not going to pull the brakes on him.”

Hempfield took a 36-33 lead into halftime, after Fiedor banked in a 3 to beat the second-quarter buzzer.

The lead changed hands 10 times in the first half. Norwin led 22-15 after a 3 from Ryan Edwards.

Hempfield led the entire third quarter, with Sowers connecting from 3 to make it 56-46.

Sowers’ 3 from the wing gave Hempfield a 63-52 advantage, and Fiedor, who continued to have success getting to the rim on tough drives, scored on a layup to stretch the lead to 13 with five minutes to play in the fourth.

Swan (Connellsville) and Maha (West Mifflin) played against each other in high school in 1984-85. Both were all-section players.

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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