Norwin girls show no signs of rust in dominant quarterfinal win over Baldwin

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Thursday, February 23, 2023 | 9:00 PM


After a 13-day layoff from game competition, Norwin hoped to be back in rhythm in its WPIAL girls basketball playoff opener.

No issues, there.

The Knights came out and played like a fine-tuned guitar. And shredded Baldwin.

Sophomore guard Kendall Berger scored 21 points in her first career playoff start, and Class 6A’s top defense showed up again in a big way as the third-seeded Knights won their quarterfinal 57-26 on Thursday night in North Huntingdon.

Norwin (20-3) advances to play a familiar playoff combatant in Monday’s semifinals. No. 2 North Allegheny (18-5) held back Pine-Richland, 69-56, in another quarterfinal.

“That was the longest we have been off in a long time,” Norwin junior center Lauren Palangio said. “There were no nerves. We shook some rust off. Now, it’s on to bigger and better things.”

Baldwin (10-13), the No. 6 seed that had been off for nine days, fell behind 12-0 early and never recovered as Norwin eventually drove the game into the mercy rule.

Norwin has held five straight opponents to fewer than 30 points.

“We made it a point to get the ball into the post, and we took advantage of kickouts,” Berger said. “I was nervous last year (in the playoffs). I am playing with more confidence now.”

It showed for Berger, who had 15 in the first half, including a pair of 3-pointers as the Knights built a 31-10 lead after 16 minutes.

Some first-half highlights:

Palangio and senior Kate Botti had blocks, freshman Ava Christopher scored off a steal, and Berger bumped in a layup after junior Ava Kobus delivered a pass while on her back.

Berger had nine in the second quarter.

A tri-scrimmage with Penn-Trafford and Elizabeth Forward, and a single joint-practice with McKeesport helped Norwin file down any rough edges heading into another postseason.

A size advantage with the 6-foot-1 Palangio and 6-foot Botti helped keep the Highlanders out of the lane. Guards forced turnovers on the wings that led to transition baskets.

You know, Norwin being Norwin.

“These (opening games) are always a crapshoot,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. “It’s good to come out on the positive side. It starts with our defense. We’re not reinventing the wheel. If there is no buy-in from the girls, your schemes won’t. It doesn’t matter how good you think they are.”

Palangio and Kobus each scored eight points.

Baldwin had a better third quarter, with senior Gianna Schoeb scoring seven points. But Berger zipped in for layup off a steal and hit a short jumper, before sophomore Averi Brozeski and Botti hit 3s to close the quarter with Norwin up 49-21.

Baldwin was looking to return to the semis for the first time since 2011-12.

Sophomore Mary Vargo led the Highlanders with nine points.

“We got through the first round. Now, have a few days to prepare (for North Allegheny),” Palangio said. “We’ll work on some things and be ready to go.”

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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