Norwin boys basketball team prepared to take next step in Maha’s 2nd season as coach

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Friday, November 25, 2022 | 4:19 PM


A sleek, refurbished gym floor greeted the basketball teams at Norwin this year.

The floor is much lighter, adding brightness to the room.

The color scheme is slightly altered — a tangier shade of yellow against the traditional navy blue — and the Knights logo also has a modernized look with the giant suit of armor helmet replacing the “N” at midcourt.

Also, the padding on the walls behind the rims also is now blue instead of gold.

Staying with the theme, coach Lance Maha hopes his boys basketball team can have a similarly varnished look as he begins his second year as coach.

“We have some kids who have been around the program for a season and a summer,” Maha said. “They know the system and the terminology and know fundamentally how we want to play.”

Norwin made the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs last year and gave Butler a game before losing 81-73 in the first round to finish 9-11.

The loss was the ninth in a row in the first round for the Knights dating to 2007-08, the last season they won a playoff game.

They have qualified for the playoffs just twice since 2015-16.

“We’re hoping to get back to the playoffs and be a factor when we get there,” Maha said. “That’s a fun time. Once you get in, everyone has a shot.”

A three-guard nucleus of seniors returns to get the Knights started.

Adam Bilinsky, an athletic, slashing scorer whose dunks can energize the lineup, is a Mercyhurst commit. Ryan Edwards and Justin Weaver join Bilinsky in the backcourt. Both are seasoned guards.

“Adam is one of the best players in the WPIAL,” Maha said. “Ryan is getting a lot of Division III looks. He is a coach’s player. We’re relying on those three to be leaders. We think we have better players this year.”

The 6-foot-3 Bilinsky averaged 17.5 points and 10.6 rebounds.

“I think you’re going to see this team get better as the year goes on,” Maha said. “We’re going to grow our depth. Some of the kids who got beat on by the starters last year are going to get their chance to play and make an impact.”

The two other starting spots were up for grabs, Maha said, although senior Trent Raspotnik spot-started last year.

A senior-heavy group also includes Cullen Rahuba, Collin Gunzberger, Louis Botti, Jake Murray, 6-5 Mike Mihalov and newcomers Dan Diven (6-5) and football standout Jackson Pons, who hasn’t played basketball since he was a freshman at Central Catholic.

Mihalov was not at 100% last year because of an injury.

“We have guys really competing in the gym, and that is a good thing,” Maha said. “Last year I probably played the fewest guys since I’ve been coaching. This year, I think we can go about 10 deep. They’re battling for (spots) four through nine.”

Senior forward Noah Vogel also is out for hoops but has been slowed by a leg injury from football.

Maha said several juniors also are in the mix to play, including Noah Wilson, Dylan McCullough and Alex Wiggins.

“Once we get that rotation in place, we need to win more than one way,” Maha said. “Last year, we relied so heavily on our 3-point shooting. We need to be able to grind, rebound and defend, find other ways to score.”

Sound defensive play, Maha said, is his “comfort zone.”

“We need to be able to play differently on defense, too,” he said. “Last year, we played a ton of man-to-man. Hopefully, with our depth, we can change it up here and there.”

A new-look Section 2-6A will comprise the Knights, Baldwin, Canon-McMillan, Hempfield, Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair.

“There are some traditional programs there and some coaches with WPIAL championships,” Maha said. “No gimmes there. One good thing is that we don’t get into section play until January, so we can gain some experience over the first seven or eight games.”

Norwin opens with its tip-off tournament against Jeannette.

The Knights’ other nonsection opponents include Penn-Trafford, Yough, Thomas Jefferson and Laurel Highlands.

Norwin boys at a glance

Coach: Lance Maha

Last year’s record: 9-11 (4-4 Section 3-6A)

Returning starters: Adam Bilinsky (Sr., G), Ryan Edwards (Sr., G), Justin Weaver (Sr., G)

Top newcomers: Luke Denny (Sr., G), Dylan McCullough (Jr., F), Mike Mihalov (Sr., F), Trent Raspotnik (Sr., F), Alex Wiggins (Jr. G)

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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