Norwin girls find 2nd wind, top Chartiers Valley to reach WPIAL 6A final

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Monday, February 26, 2024 | 8:58 PM


Early on, Chartiers Valley took charges.

After some key adjustments, Norwin took charge.

Top-seeded Norwin overcame a close first half and scored 39 second-half points to rip past No. 5 Chartiers Valley, 63-47, in a WPIAL Class 6A girls basketball semifinal Monday night at Peters Township’s AHN Arena.

The Knights (20-3) are headed to their first WPIAL final since 2016 and will meet section and postseason rival North Allegheny (22-2) for the championship.

The teams will play at 7 p.m. Friday at Pitt’s Petersen Events Center.

Norwin swept the season series from the Tigers for the first time this season. North Allegheny beat Norwin, 38-36, in last year’s semifinals.

The Tigers beat Peters Township, 43-30, in the other semifinal Monday.

A big second half, where the Knights showed more patience with the basketball while creating better scoring chances, allowed them to build a double-digit lead in the third quarter and they peeled away from Chartiers Valley (16-7).

Early charges — on both teams — caught the attention of Norwin coach Brian Brozeski, whose team has beaten 18 straight WPIAL opponents.

Norwin wasn’t playing reckless by any means, but a more controlled approach proved fruitful. When players got the ball in the paint, they kicked it out and kept it moving.

“Charging calls don’t get called enough,” Brozeski said. “They make you play with more control. You can’t just fly around and flop to the floor.”

Defense also played a big part Norwin, which had six blocks and made it a chore for the Colts to get to the rim.

Chartiers Valley, which will play Peters Township (22-2) in the third-place consolation, never led but cut Norwin’s lead to 43-36 late in the third with 3-point shooting.

Junior guard Kendall Berger scored 18 of her game- and playoff career-high 22 points after halftime to push the Knights ahead to stay.

Norwin accelerated with a key goal on their minds.

“It was a slow start,” Berger said. “In the second half, there were more back-cuts and knock-outs. We lost to North Allegheny (in the semifinals) last year, and we didn’t want to experience that feeling again.”

Sophomore Ava Christopher also played up a notch on a big stage, getting Norwin started with 11 first-half points. She finished with 14.

“It’s such a great feeling to make the finals,” Christopher said. “We picked up our defense. We were more calm (in the second half). Our depth helped us tonight. It helps to rotate fresh legs.”

Berger opened the fourth quarter with back-to-back baskets as the Knights went on a 15-1 run to build a 58-37 advantage. Berger had 10 in the fourth.

“This was one of those tweener matchups,” Brozeski said. “It was a chess match. We had to throw a lot of different personnel at them.”

Chartiers Valley made seven 3-pointers, four from junior Lilah Turnbull, who tied junior teammate Emma Reynolds with a team-high 14 points. Senior Ella Cupka, who missed a month with an injury, finished with 13.

Senior forward Lauren Palangio added 10 points for Norwin before resting a foot injury in the fourth quarter.

Norwin jumped out to a 10-0 lead but knew this wasn’t going to be an easy win.

The Colts answered with a 12-2 run to tie it 12-12.

Berger hit a mid-range jumper as Norwin went on an 8-2 spurt to take a 24-15 lead late in the first half.

Christopher knocked down a 3-pointer, then scored on a steal, before Cupka hit a jumper to beat the buzzer and cut the deficit to 24-17 at the half.

“Ava is building in confidence,” Brozeski said. “She is realizing how great she can be. She is becoming more of a threat as an offensive player.”

Junior Averi Brozeski had seven points off the bench, and junior Bella Furno hit two 3s in a reserve role for Norwin.

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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