Norwin boys sharpen game against wide variety of opponents

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Thursday, December 8, 2022 | 6:01 AM


Lance Maha wanted to diversify the Norwin boys basketball schedule when he took over the program last year.

The coach’s end game always was to sharpen his team’s teeth on the defensive end of the floor to boost offensive opportunities on the other.

“We want to be a good half-court defensive team,” Maha said. “It’s about knowing where to be on the floor and getting those stops.”

The Knights have been sharp in half-court man-to-man so far, winning games over Jeannette, Uniontown and Penn-Trafford for a 3-0 start.

The Knights take on improved Yough (3-0) in the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Shootout on Saturday at Jeannette.

Back to the schedule: Maha has been coaching for more than two decades, so he has seen many WPIAL programs and taken mental notes about methodology and approaches to the game.

To a large degree, he sprinkled those notes onto the Knights’ schedule.

“We wanted to schedule different styles of play so we’re used to playing different ways,” Maha said. “We wanted to play fast-paced teams that like to run, half-court-type teams, physical teams and teams with star players to test our guys and prepare them for anything they might see. Basketball is a game of styles. It’s like boxing that way.”

The Knights also have nonsection matchups against Laurel Highlands (and star Rodney Gallagher), Peters Township, Plum, Latrobe and Franklin Regional.

Latrobe is another up-tempo opponent, while Franklin Regional can play physical.

Uniontown was one of those fast-paced teams, but Norwin held its own against the Red Raiders, even when they made a run in the second half of a 55-47 win that clinched the Norwin Tip-Off Tournament championship.

“We need to show we can play with teams like Uniontown,” senior guard Adam Bilinsky said. “We have worked on becoming a better defensive team.”

Maha wants intensity and nonstop effort on the defensive end, which takes energy from a long bench, which he believes he has.

“We played 13 or 14 guys in the opener,” Maha said. “We had nine or 10 (in the next game). We’re getting better and finding depth. It isn’t going to be Adam, (Ryan) Edwards and (Justin) Weaver all the time.”

Senior guard Ryan Edwards said he has seen the results of playing differing styles.

“We’re playing better together, and we’re playing tougher,” he said. “We’re rebounding, getting after those loose balls and showing toughness.”

Norwin made 12 3-pointers, including eight in the third quarter, in a 61-56 win over Penn-Trafford. Bilinsky and Justin Weaver had four each, and Edwards added three.

“In the first half, we took (Penn-Trafford’s) best shot,” Maha said. “We came out, got shots and made them.”

Bilinsky, who is averaging more than 25 points and has more than 750 career points, said he has worked on his individual game, which he hopes can carry over into the team’s play.

It isn’t all about dunks and layups for the 6-foot-3 guard, who has committed to Mercyhurst.

“I took a step back to work on my jump shot,” he said. “I have keyed on my 3-point shot.”

A couple of times against Uniontown, Norwin forced turnovers and flipped the ball upcourt to run offensive sets. Bilinsky popped open near the foul line and hit several pull-up jumpers.

Coaches will agree the mid-range jumper is more antiquated than it probably should be.

“I work on it all the time,” Bilinsky said. “My brother (Ty) hit that shot all the time. He was good at it, but didn’t get too high off the floor. I try to get up and shoot over people.”

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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