North Allegheny holds off Norwin to boost credentials as top seed in Class 6A

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Monday, February 22, 2021 | 9:37 PM


Fifth-ranked Norwin was looking to score an upset in its Section 1-6A finale Monday night — the eve of the release of the WPIAL girls basketball playoff pairings — but not because it had a chance to share the section title with No. 1 North Allegheny.

No, that ship had sailed.

The Knights knew a win could greatly improve their tournament seeding.

North Allegheny wasn’t having it.

The defending WPIAL champion Tigers are out for the No. 1 seed and put a stamp on their application with a 42-36 victory and a season sweep of the host Knights.

While it wasn’t the best showing of the season for the section champion Tigers (18-1, 13-0), who made just 7 of 17 free throws and allowed Norwin to get a number of rebounds, they will take the rugged, playoff-like win and head to the postseason.

“Norwin is a good team,” North Allegheny coach Spencer Stefko said. “You’re going to have nights where you miss free throws and you don’t rebound well. We’re lucky to get out of here with the win.”

North Allegheny, which had its 30-game winning streak snapped Saturday at Trinity, won its 23rd straight section game.

The Tigers’ last loss to a section opponent came last season at Norwin, 63-55.

“On Saturday, we ground out a loss,” Stefko said. “Tonight, we ground out a win.”

Plagued by missed layups and a 7-for-13 effort from the free-throw line, Norwin (11-4, 9-3) never led. But it rallied from a 10-point deficit early in the fourth.

The Knights, however, could not get the lead under five after freshman Lauren Palangio put back a rebound with 1 minute, 22 seconds to go to make it 41-36.

Norwin, the last Westmoreland County girls team to win a WPIAL title in basketball (2016), will enter the postseason for the 20th straight time. The Knights, who were coming off a loss to 5A No. 1 Chartiers Valley, still could land a top-5 seed despite the loss.

“It was one of those games where both teams played with a lot of energy and want-to,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. “We just needed to relax and let it happen. We needed to capitalize on some things. Our girls had every reason to give up, but they didn’t. They kept fighting.”

North Allegheny used a 12-0 run to open an 18-5 lead, and a basket by sophomore Mia Tuman stretched it to 22-7 with 3:06 left in the second quarter.

The Tigers took a 25-13 lead into the break and led 33-26 after three quarters.

Palangio made two free throws to get Norwin within 28-19, but junior Emma Fischer made one of her two third quarter 3-pointers to stretch it back to double figures.

A foul-line jumper by junior Alyssa Laukus was followed by a three-point play by Palangio to cut it to 31-26.

In the fourth, Knights senior Danielle Rosso hit a 3 and Mara Polczynski scored on a drive to make it 36-31 with 3:42 remaining.

Sophomore Jasmine Timmerson buried a corner 3 for the Tigers — one of their six 3s — and senior guard Lizzy Groetsch scored inside for a 41-33 advantage.

“Give Norwin a lot of credit,” Stefko said. “They were right there until the end. We have to be better on the boards. We missed some shots. We dodged a bullet.”

Rosso and Groetsch were the only players to score in double figures, with 13 and 12 points, respectively. Rosso made three 3s.

Fischer finished with eight and Timmerson had seven.

Palangio played well in her second start. She replaced sophomore Savannah Schneck, who was on crutches with a brace on her left knee. She has a torn ACL and is done for the season. She had nine points, seven in the second half. Polczynski scored seven.

“She gives us a nice post presence,” Brozeski said. “She played well under pressure for us.”

Groetsch, a Penn commit, hit a pair of 3s in a sluggish opening quarter to stake the Tigers to an 11-5 lead.

North Allegheny won the first meeting, 57-41.

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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