Norwin girls on a “role” with sweep of Hempfield

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Thursday, February 2, 2023 | 10:56 PM


Norwin girls basketball players recently filled out and read a Google form report about finding their roles on the team.

It was a topic the Knights know well. The exercise gave the players a better idea of what their collective personality is.

Norwin is ranked third in WPIAL Class 6A — it was No. 1 for much of the season — but returned only one starter in junior center Lauren Palangio.

A host of talent has emerged, though, to make Norwin one of the deepest teams in the WPIAL.

Norwin is still young, too. There are only two seniors on the roster.

But there are times when the group looks like it has been playing together for years.

“One of the things (on the report) was, don’t try to be more than you are,” senior forward Kate Botti said. “We’re competing to work together and help each other through our roles.”

Those roles were on display Thursday night as the Knights won going away at Hempfield, 48-26, for a Section 1-6A sweep of the Spartans.

Norwin (17-3, 7-1), which has won three in a row after a two-game slide, is in pursuit of the section title with two games remaining. Norwin and North Allegheny (13-4, 7-1) are tied at the top.

Hempfield (8-11, 2-6) has dropped 7 of 8 but can make the playoffs if it can claim, or tie for, fourth place. A recent 51-48 loss to Seneca Valley put a dent in the Spartans’ chances.

“A lot of these girls have had the practice time, but it’s different for them to get time on the court now,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. “They’re going against some top players on opponents’ teams.

“They are all experiencing the growing process while playing at a high level.”

Look at Norwin’s starting five: Only junior Ava Kobus and sophomore Kendall Berger played some varsity last year. The others were mainly junior varsity players.

Junior Bailey Snowberger was dealing with an injury last year, which kept her out, while key reserve Savannah Schneck was recovering from a second ACL surgery.

Berger has emerged as a scorer, a second or sometimes first option with Palangio. Kobus is a 3-point threat, Snowberger runs the point and Botti is an aggressor around the rim.

Schneck provides key minutes off the bench, and the team also gets contributions from senior guard Tori Sydeski, freshman guard Ava Christopher, junior guard Kendall Williams, sophomore guard Bella Furno and others.

“We’ve made it a team effort,” Botti said. “We’re making a nice run this season.”

Brozeski said he has been impressed by the play of Sydeski and Christopher, who are on opposite ends of the class spectrum but are equally important to the fabric of the team.

“Kendall, Tori, Ava Christopher, they are handling the ball well and defending for us,” Brozeski said. “Ava has really adapted as a freshman.”

Norwin routinely plays 10 or more girls, often subbing five for five to keep the lineup energized and fresh.

The Knights are allowing 34.3 points a game, the best defensive average in 6A.

Botti is a vocal leader for the Knights, often making sure everyone is in the right place.

“Bailey is the quarterback, Ava is the shooter, Kendall is the playmaker, Lauren is the finisher and I am the brains,” Botti said.

Norwin made 12 of its first 16 shots and led 30-6 by halftime Thursday as it forced the Spartans into early miscues. The mercy rule was in effect in the third after a 3-pointer from Berger.

Palangio led Norwin with 13 points, Berger had nine and Snowberger hit two 3-pointers and scored eight.

Junior guard Sarah Podkul led Hempfield with 13 points.

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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