Norwin girls shut down Penn Hills at North Allegheny tournament

Saturday, December 8, 2018 | 9:12 PM

Norwin girls basketball coach Brian Brozeski held an impromptu walkthrough in the gym at 8 a.m. Saturday to teach his players the basics of the 1-3-1 zone defense because he wanted to implement it against Penn Hills.

The Knights hadn’t practiced that much in the past, but after the brief seminar, they took the court and played like it had been a staple for many years.

Class 6A No. 4 Norwin held Penn Hills to 10 field goals and led for the duration in a 36-26 victory at the Wright Automotive Tip-Off Tournament at North Allegheny.

The Knights finished the weekend 2-0 after defeating Altoona, 48-38, on Friday. Penn Hills, the third-ranked team in Class 5A, fell to 0-2 after losing to Class 6A No. 1 North Allegheny, 60-45, on Friday.

Norwin and Penn Hills were not originally scheduled to play each other, but a late change put them together. The switch prompted the early-morning defense lesson.

The Knights held Penn Hills to single-digit point totals in each quarter.

“We got a chance to watch (Penn Hills) a little last night, and we wanted to make sure to try and take away one of their strengths and that’s driving to the rim,” Brozeski said. “We thought the best way to do that was to use a 1-3-1, and we’re fortunate to have a group of girls that are cognizant enough to be able to listen, take in the scheme and execute it on the fly.

“Their communication and their bond help them out. When you get a group of girls that are good friends off the court as well as teammates on the court, they learn how to communicate and how to play off each other. I think that was a key to successfully executing the gameplan.”

Norwin junior Jayla Wehner scored a game-high 13 points. She was named to the all-tournament team along with teammate Jessica Kolesar, who had seven points. Adia Brisker, a Niagara recruit, made the all-tournament team from Penn Hills. She had eight points.

“It feels great, but aside from getting this honor, it’s way better that we came out of this weekend 2-0 and started our season off the way that we wanted to,” Wehner said.

Kolesar and Wehner forced several turnovers each and helped Norwin hold Penn Hills to a five-minute scoring drought in the first quarter. The Knights also held the Indians scoreless for the first 4 1/2 minutes of the second half before a layup by Amani Blackwell ended the drought.

“It’s great to see those two get recognized because sometimes it’s easy to look at a box score and see who’s putting up points, but what they do on the other side of things like being able to keep the tempo and execute,” Brozeski said. “Jayla is able to handle pressure and keep the tempo up to where we want the game to be. I love having Jess because of her capabilities defensively to try and at least slow down the other team’s top player. She defends the ball as well as anyone I’ve had since I’ve been coaching here.”

Penn Hills coach Robert Cash pulled his starting five early in the third quarter and sat them down for the duration of the quarter and part of the fourth. He said he was unhappy with their performance and wanted to see if he could get a spark elsewhere.

“They just didn’t show up to play,” Cash said. “They had a lack of hustle and didn’t get things done, so at some point I had to find some kids that were going to keep us in the game and give us an opportunity to win. When I went to the next five, I thought they came in with a little more energy and effort. They went for loose balls and they showed me that they wanted to play. I used them as long as I could to keep us in the game, and I was hoping the other kids would come back and get us over the top, but it just didn’t happen today.”

Diamond-Jay Whittington, who missed last season with a knee injury, came off the bench and led Penn Hills with 10 points. The Indians played without Longwood commit Tayonna Robertson.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.

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