Norwin Comes Back To Repeat Girls AAAA Title In Overtime

Saturday, February 27, 2016 | 10:26 PM

“Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion” has often become a cliché in the world of sports. That adage proved fitting at the Petersen Events Center on Saturday night, however, as the reigning champion Norwin Knights scored a 63-57 overtime victory against North Allegheny in the Class Quad-A title game.

Top-seeded Norwin overcame a seemingly insurmountable fourth-quarter deficit against North Allegheny to not only keep its undefeated season in tact, but to repeat as champion. Pitt recruit Alayna Gribble led the Knights with a game-high 22 points, with 17 points in the second half, while teammate Dominique Petach contributed 13 points, including five points in overtime.

The contest commenced with the sides exchanging buckets frequently throughout the first quarter, but the Tigers did the majority of their damage from behind the arc. North Allegheny made four of their five field goals from 3-point land, include two from Piper Morningstar. Conversely, Norwin made just one shot from distance.

North Allegheny also avoided a letdown after star guard and Delaware recruit Abby Gonzales was whistled for her second foul with approximately 2:30 remaining in the stanza. When Gonzeles exited, her squad held an 11-9 edge, and actually extended that lead with a 5-4 run to conclude the quarter.

The second quarter was lopsided in favor of the No. 2 seed Tigers, as they outscored Norwin 15-5. In that frame, North Allegheny hit three shots from behind the arc, including two by Hailey Zeise, and also converted all six of their foul shots. In the closing moments of the stanza, North Allegheny gained its largest lead, 16 points, before Norwin’s Jenna Cole hit a deep 3-pointer to beat the halftime buzzer.

Norwin began to find its offensive rhythm in the third quarter, but was unable to gain ground, as the Tigers remained hot from 3-point distance. Gribble hit a pair shots behind the arc, while Petach added five points for the Knights. That production was offset by Taylor Lake and freshman Rachel Martindale, however, as they both scored six in the period for NA.

As a result, North Allegheny carried a 49-36 lead into the final quarter of regulation, and scored the first basket of the frame to pull ahead by 15. That’s when Gribble and the Knights responded, though, as the future Panther made consecutive baskets to spark her squad. After NA scored another basket to go up by 13 points early in the frame, the Tigers would not score again from the field for the rest of regulation.

Cole drilled a 3-pointer, and the Knights made a foul shot to pull within single digits. Lake made a pair of free throws to again restore the lead back to 11 for NA, but Gribble responded with a 3-pointer and a layup.

The Tigers were unable to halt Norwin’s momentum, as Zeise picked up her fourth personal foul to put the Knights in the bonus with four minutes remaining. Norwin (25-0) quickly hit four foul shots to pull within two, and then Petach made a difficult floater on the baseline to deadlock the score at 55-55. Neither team could produce a quality shot in their final possession, which sent the game into overtime.

Norwin and North Allegheny both struggled to find offense for more than two minutes of the extra frame, until Knight’s senor Taylor Sabol stroked a 3-pointer, her third make from distance in the game. With the Knights’ defense clamping down on the Tigers, Petach converted five of her six free throws in the overtime to seal the victory.

Sabol detailed the mindset she and her teammates had while they staged the unlikely comeback. “In the fourth quarter, it really hits us ‘this is live or die.’ We came out and played for each other,” she said.

Likewise, Norwin head coach Brian Brozeski applauded the achievements of his players, in particular his seniors, who have displayed greatness both on and off-the-court.

“It’s really nice to see these girls have success like this, because it shows people you can be a positive role model and live the right way and achieve success. I’m very proud of every one of these girls,” he noted

Sabol, Cole and McMaster all made key contributions in the victory, scoring nine, eight and seven points, respectively.

In the defeat, Zeise topped four Tigers (22-4) in double figures, with 15 points. Lake netted 12 and 12 rebounds, while Martindale scored 11, and Morningstar added 10 points.

Norwin and North Allegheny both will return to action next weekend for the first round of the PIAA Class Quad-A postseason.

Score by Quarter
Norwin Knights 13 – 5 – 18 – 19 – 8 = 63
North Allegheny Tigers 16 – 15 – 18 – 6 – 2 = 57

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