Norwin girls atone for semifinal loss to North Allegheny, beat Mt. Lebanon for 3rd place

Wednesday, March 1, 2023 | 9:41 PM

Apparently, the difference between third and fourth place for Norwin was getting back into character.

“The last game left a sour taste in our mouths, so we wanted to come out and play better,” Lady Knights center Lauren Palangio said. “We needed to come out and play more for each other, not for ourselves.”

Looking to move past a tough semifinal loss to rival North Allegheny, Norwin bounced back with a 56-43 home win over Mt. Lebanon on Wednesday night in the WPIAL Class 6A girls basketball third-place game.

Gold would have been nice. Bronze will have to do for now.

Norwin (21-4) secured the No. 3 seed from the WPIAL for the PIAA playoffs, set to begin March 10. The Lady Knights are back in the state postseason for the first time since 2019.

Fourth place goes to Mt. Lebanon (17-8), which also is headed for the PIAA tournament.

Palangio helped Norwin stay close after long-bombing Mt. Lebanon pulled out to an 11-2 lead. Then, junior guard Ava Kobus found her shooting touch and made four 3-pointers — two in a row to open the fourth — to help the Knights retake control for good.

“The positive thing was that we had a quick turnaround,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. “We were choppy at first. There are so many variables. This time of year is an emotional roller coaster. We weren’t sure what to expect.”

Third-seeded Norwin dropped a 38-36 decision to North Allegheny after giving back a 10-point lead in the third quarter.

The Knights only had four points in the fourth quarter Monday night.

This time, Norwin rallied behind 32 second-half points.

“Just because we don’t win (WPIALs)doesn’t mean we can’t do well in states,” Kobus said.

Norwin led 24-23 at the half with Palangio hitting a turnaround jumper to put the Knights in front. She had eight of her game-high 19 points in the second.

Sophomore Kendall Berger hit a 3 to open the third, when Norwin began to reassert itself. Junior Bailey Snowberger followed with another 3, and Norwin was up 30-26.

Snowberger then made a slick move, taking three defenders off the dribble in one direction, before reversing course for a layup the other way.

She also had a steal late in the frame, which saw sophomore Bella Furno cap the quarter with a layup to make it 40-34.

Kobus, who had eight of her 14 in the fourth, made consecutive 3s, the second in the corner on a feed from senior Kate Botti, to put Norwin up 46-34.

“Ava is a calming presence,” Brozeski said. “She can take pressure off our forwards inside. Kate made a skip-pass there to Ava. That was an unselfish play.”

Mt. Lebanon sophomore Payton Collins hit a 3 to cut it nine, but Palangio put back a miss, and Berger scored inside for a 50-37 advantage.

The Blue Devils, who were seeded fourth, managed just six points in the fourth quarter in a 58-33 loss to No. 1 Upper St. Clair in the semis. They had just nine against Norwin.

Mt. Lebanon got to within nine one more time, but Norwin sank six straight free throws inside the final two minutes to seal it.

“In order to get open looks, it takes my teammates moving the ball around and getting us better shots,” Kobus said. “We’re at our best when we’re moving the ball.”

The teams combined for 16 3-pointers, nine from the Blue Devils, who were led by Collins’ 16 points. She made four 3s.

Seniors Gina Smith and Victoria Pettko hit two 3s each in the loss.

Berger had 13 for the Knights, who beat the Blue Devils earlier in the season 50-23.

Norwin will open the state tournament next Friday on the road against District 3 third-place team Central Dauphin (20-5).

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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