Norwin girls focus on season’s highlights after playoff exit

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Friday, February 28, 2020 | 11:26 PM


Norwin has a well-respected history in girls basketball.

The Knights have been regular WPIAL playoff participants — Norwin has advanced to the postseason 31 times — and annual contenders for section championships.

The Knights maintained both rich traditions in 2019-20.

Norwin tied for first with rival North Allegheny in Section 1-6A with a 13-1 record, ahead of Seneca Valley (9-5) and Fox Chapel (7-7). It was the Knights’ third consecutive title, fourth in the past five years and fifth in seven seasons.

Norwin drew the third seed for the WPIAL playoffs, but lost a quarterfinal-round decision Feb. 21 to No. 6 Upper St. Clair, 52-39, at Charleroi.

The Knights wrapped up the year with an 18-5 record.

“I am proud of girls and appreciate the efforts that they put forth not only during the season but more importantly in the offseason,” said Brian Brozeski, Norwin’s veteran floor boss. “All in all, we fell short of our goals, but I would still consider the season a success.

“Anytime you can win your section, it is a positive.”

After opening the season 2-2, the Norwin girls strung together a 12-game winning streak that ran from Dec. 17 through Jan. 26.

The Knights were led this season by a dynamic senior backcourt duo consisting of Olivia Gribble and Jayla Wehner, who tossed in 26 points per game between them.

Gribble, a 5-foot-8 guard, will continue her career at Marietta. Wehner, who stands 5-5, is a Marian (Ind.) recruit.

“I thought we played up to the standards we set for ourselves at the beginning of the year,” Gribble said, “but we weren’t playing our best basketball by the end of the year like we needed to. It’s tough to see it end this way and we certainly didn’t intend to end this early.

“The expectations we set for ourselves were to finish at the top of our section, like we did, but more importantly make a bigger impact in the WPIAL playoffs, and eventually in state playoffs.”

Gribble and Wehner, both three-year starters and four-year letter winners, were joined in the starting lineup by junior guards Danielle Rosso and Maura Polyczynski, and sophomore guard/forward Brianna Zajcek.

“Our first goal was to get better each and every game,” Wehner said, “and to be playing our best basketball towards the end of the season. We also had the goal of being section champs, which we shared with North Allegheny, and then another goal was to win WPIALs then eventually states. We came up short of both of those.

“I never saw our season coming to an end when it did, and I’m upset that we didn’t reach our goals, but I know that everything happens for a reason.”

While Gribble (15.6 ppg) and Wehner (10.6 ppg) were the team’s leading scorers, Zacjek and Polczynski paced the Knights on the boards.

Leading reserves included freshman guard/forward Savanna Schneck, senior guard Maggie Edwards, sophomore forward Alyssa Laukus, and senior forwards Jackie Caputo and Cassie Cole.

“We were able to put five players on the court that were are able to score from multiple areas and with multiple styles,” Brozeski said, “which made it challenging for other teams to focus on taking solely one option away.”

Prior to the playoffs, Norwin was the No. 1 offensive team in Class 6A with a 61.4 ppg average. The Knights, who peppered in 60 or more points 12 times (and netted at least 70 points in four games), allowed only 40.9 ppg defensively.

“We liked to create tempo by pushing the ball down the court, but yet executing our sets very well,” Wehner said. “We also took pride in our pressure, aggressive defense. We knew that getting stops on defense would lead to more offensive possessions.”

Over the past four years, Norwin’s seniors won three section championships, advanced to the WPIAL playoffs four times and PIAA tournament once, were 42-6 in section games and posted a 70-24 career record.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my senior season playing with any other team,” Wehner said. “I am so glad I got to grow with them on and off the court. I couldn’t have asked for a better high school basketball experience.”

Her backcourt mate agreed.

“I am grateful to have made a positive impact the four years I played for Norwin,” Gribble said. “I am also thankful to be a part of teams that were so supportive. I was able meet some of my best friends from playing the sport I love.”

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