Norwin big man Jayden Walker feasts on Latrobe

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Friday, January 10, 2020 | 10:22 PM


Playing the first home game of his junior basketball season, Norwin’s Jayden Walker was expected to show up to work on an empty stomach.

Explanation?

“I told him, ‘You’re going to eat tonight,’” Norwin coach Buddy Valinsky said. “Be ready to get the ball. We’re going to feed you.”

Walker hit the buffet a few times.

The 6-foot-3 forward, back from offseason shoulder surgery, showed how much of a difference he can make for the Knights, scoring 14 points and ripping down 17 rebounds as the Knights turned back Latrobe, 66-53, on Friday night in a Section 3-6A game in North Huntingdon.

“What Walker is doing is a credit to my assistants who work with him on post moves in practice,” Valinsky said. “We’re certainly glad to see him back.”

The win was the first in section for Valinsky, whose Knights (9-3, 1-3) snapped a two-game skid with the lineup Valinsky expected to roll out when the season began. It also snapped a 12-game section losing streak for the Knights.

Walker seems to enjoy his role as a traditional post player, an almost archaic position in many programs these days.

Valinsky embraces that concept and thinks the Knights can be one of the better outside-in teams in the section because of it.

“I just try to bring intensity to the team … We haven’t had a strong big man like that down below,” Walker said. “I am trying to clean the glass and just be a typical big man for the team. We already have plenty of shooters.”

Junior guard Ty Bilinsky is one of them. He led the Knights with 21 points, 10 in the third quarter when Norwin stretched its lead to 15 at 43-28.

Junior Josh Williams also was effective for Norwin with 11 points.

Walker made his debut Tuesday at Fox Chapel but battled foul trouble and only had five points and six rebounds.

This time, the left-hander with a soft touch played more minutes and was much more effective.

“He can dominate in the paint,” Bilinsky said of Walker. “It’s a lot easier knowing he is on the floor and can get us second-chance points.”

Walker scored seven in the second quarter with one of his layups giving the Knights a 26-19 advantage. That basket followed a 3-pointer by Bilinsky.

“They have two big, strong guys who played well in the post,” Latrobe coach Brad Wetzel said of Walker and junior Nick Fleming. “They had two. We had one. That made a big difference.”

Freshman Adam Bilinsky followed with a jumper to put the Knights up 30-19 and they took a 35-25 lead into the half.

Latrobe (3-8, 1-3), which has lost five of six, made a few mild runs, but they were fleeting.

“We forced some things tonight,” Wetzel said. “We need to play a little more calm with the basketball. We turned the ball over too much.”

Latrobe 6-6 senior forward Michael Noonan scored on a pair of layups and junior Ryan Sickenberger converted a steal into points to cut it to 45-36 in the third.

The loss spoiled a strong performance from Noonan, who scored a game-high 25 points for the Wildcats and pulled down nine rebounds.

But Ty Bilinsky scored seven of Norwin’s final nine points of the third as the Knights went ahead, 54-41. Bilinsky made three 3-pointers.

Sickenberger hit a 3-pointer with 2:50 to play in the fourth to make it 56-49 but that was as close as the Wildcats got as Norwin ended the game on a 10-4 run to preserve the wire-to-wire victory.

“I challenged our guys (when Latrobe was coming back),” Valinsky said. “Sometimes I have to be the bad guy. I didn’t want them to fall back on bad habits.”

Norwin went to a 1-3-1 zone press in an effort to limit Sickenberger, who finished with 12 points.

Adam Bilinsky finished with eight points.

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

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