Norwin boys take the measure of Latrobe at WCCA Showcase

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Saturday, December 9, 2023 | 9:01 PM


He rears back for a corner 3-pointer, stretching his arms high and behind his head, the basketball slightly tilted to the right.

He lets it go and grins slightly to greet the swish.

“Yes, it’s unorthodox and jenky,” Norwin senior guard Dylan McCullough said of his shooting motion. “I didn’t shoot like that when I was a freshman. I just changed my shot. It’s like Larry Bird or something.”

Forget how it looks. It works.

McCullough showed up with five 3-pointers and a career- high 19 points as Norwin beat back banged-up Latrobe on Saturday, 63-58, in the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Showcase on Lou Seiler Court at Jeannette.

“We knew Latrobe was going to be up in our grill,” McCullough said. “If we could get passes over the top, we thought we could get good looks.”

And the Knights did as they evened their record at 2-2. Their losses are by a combined four points, so coach Lance Maha and his staff have the young and inexperienced Knights playing hard.

Norwin made 11 3s for the game but gave up a 12-point first-half lead.

“We’re getting good tests in these games, and that’s good for our kids,” Maha said. “We did a nice job reversing the ball back and getting it over the top to out shooters.

“We’re a good 3-point shooting team, especially when we get good looks.”

Sophomore Mario Csukas added 12 points and two 3s for the Knights, who had their hearts broken Tuesday when visiting Penn-Trafford beat them at the buzzer, only seconds after the Knights took a late lead.

Latrobe (1-2), without three key players battling football injuries in junior point guard John Wetzel, junior forward Alex Tatsch and junior guard/forward Jack Drnjevich, fell behind 35-23 in the second quarter on a 3 from Chris McKnight.

The Wildcats, who lost to West Virginia 5A power Morgantown, 111-49, on Tuesday, rallied and went back and forth with the Knights before falling.

Four of their first six opponents are against teams from outside the WPIAL.

“Erasing the deficit at the half was good to see,” Wildcats coach Brad Wetzel said. “We didn’t pay well enough to deserve a win. We didn’t mentally react well to adversity throughout the game.”

A 24-point second quarter allowed Norwin to take a 40-32 lead at the half, with McCullough netting four 3s before the break.

“McCullough is a good shooter,” Maha said. “He didn’t shoot it well in the first three games. He’s a little streaky. I put him on the bench in the second half against Penn-Trafford because I wanted him to rebound and defend better. He was a little stronger at those things today.”

A 10-0 run by the Wildcats to start the second half gave them a 42-40 lead with 4 minutes, 40 seconds to play in the third.

“That what basketball is,” McCullough said. “It’s a game of runs. We had to keep fighting. We needed this one.”

The lead changed hands seven times from there. After Latrobe senior Ja’Tawn Williams made a 3, sophomore Max Levendosky hit a 3 to beat the third-quarter buzzer and give Norwin a 50-49 edge.

Williams completed a three-point play for a 54-53 Latrobe lead, but Csukas made two free throws after a technical foul was called on Wildcats’ senior Darius Davis to tie it 56-56.

Junior Jeff Lenart finished a layup, and McCullough banged in another 3 to give Norwin a 61-58 edge with 55 seconds left.

With the Knights in the new five-foul bonus for the quarter, Latrobe had to foul to stop the clock.

McKnight and senior Noah Wilson each made one foul shot to make it 63-58.

“We’re young and inexperienced. There are so many teachable moments,” Maha said. “Our guys did a good job following the game plan.”

Max Butler had 10 of his team-high 18 points in the second half for Latrobe. Williams added 16, and Davis chipped in 11.

Norwin played without key forward Luke Denny, who was on a football recruiting trip.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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