Norwin boys use defense to get past Jeannette

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Tuesday, December 17, 2019 | 8:56 PM


Unbeaten Norwin probably will have better shooting performances as the season wears on.

But the Knights prided themselves on defense to win their home opener — the first game for new boys basketball coach Buddy Valinsky in North Huntingdon.

Norwin helped on switches, packed neatly into a zone and pressured athletic Jeannette up the floor in a defensive mix that carried the Knights to a 54-43 victory over the Jayhawks on Tuesday night.

Norwin is 6-0 with its Section 3-6A opener looming Friday against Hempfield.

Call the help defense the “Buddy” sytem.

“A win is a win,” Valinsky said. “I guess you always want to impress in a home game. Maybe I’ll equate it to a baseball manager who wins, 1-0, and everyone says, ‘That game was terrible.’ People should see what we did defensively. That was a team effort. Hats off to the kids. We’ve been preaching a lot of man and zone, and I thought we were in the right places.”

Jeannette (1-6), which played right with the Knights in the first half, is hoping a tough nonsection schedule will keep it sharp for Section 2-2A.

“We didn’t know what to expect from Norwin,” Jeannette coach Adrian Batts said. “I thought we played 28 minutes of really solid basketball. We just keeping hitting a point where have a lull.”

And to Valinsky’s baseball reference, a talented baseball player showed he can shoot from the perimeter for Norwin.

Junior Alex Gabauer, a Penn baseball commit, hit four 3-pointers, including two in the third quarter when Norwin took control of an otherwise tight game that saw the teams combine for 17 3-pointers — nine by Jeannette.

“Gabauer hitting those 3s, that was the big ticket,” Valinsky said. “He hit two, and it opened up their defense on the fast break. I thought we should have pushed a little bit more. Not because we were faster, just because they weren’t getting back.”

After junior Keith Rockmore hit a 3 early in the third quarter to put Jeannette up 26-21, Gabauer answered with a shot from deep.

Junior Joshua Govannucci followed with an and-1 to put the Knights ahead 27-26.

Gabauer connected from 3 again, and junior Nick Fleming followed with a 3 to put Norwin up 33-28.

A 3 from Jeannette junior Toby Cline cut it to 33-31, but Norwin ended the third quarter on an 8-2 surge to take an eight-point lead into the fourth. The lead reached 13 (46-33) in the fourth.

Bilinsky led all scorers with 17 points, and Gabauer had 12, all on 3s.

“Our defensive effort was big,” Bilinsky said. “We got more up on them. We started pressing a little bit, and we made them play faster. That led to easier baskets.

“Our help defense allowed us to wreak some havoc.”

Jeannette cut it to 50-43 on a jumper by senior Imani Sanders before free throws made up the final difference for the Knights.

“It was a team defensive effort,” Valinsky said. “We’re not slow in the backcourt. If they play the right way, trapping and getting off their man … I think it worked.”

Rockmore made four 3s and led Jeannette with 14 points, and Cline added 11, including three shots from beyond the arc.

“These games are going to make us better,” Batts said. “I believe in our guys. We’ll be there in the end.”

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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