Norwin girls take pride in long playoff run, 24-win season

By:
Saturday, April 1, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Norwin did not make its way through the PIAA girls basketball playoffs like it was touring a museum, pausing to look at others’ accomplishments with an enjoy-the-ride mentality.

The Lady Knights were not slack-jawed as they stared down each round in the state’s largest classification.

No, their run to the state semifinals was a picture of determination and a belief in greater things.

Norwin came within one win of playing for a PIAA Class 6A title in Hershey but fell to District 3 champion Cedar Cliff, 55-47, in overtime, for a semifinal bummer at Altoona.

Still, considering what the team will have coming back — it loses only three seniors — another run of that magnitude looks possible.

Pump the brakes, first, the coach said. Let this season sink in.

“I don’t think it is fair or appropriate to this team, or to any other team in the state, to start predicting next season,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. “What I will remember most about this group is their team chemistry. Not only did their individual playing styles complement one another on the court, but the players genuinely enjoyed being around one another off of the court.”

Norwin finished 24-5 after reaching the WPIAL semifinals and winning three PIAA tournament games, clearing a lofty hurdle with a win over North Allegheny in the state semis.

The 24 wins are the most for the program since the ‘15 team went 27-1.

Norwin hung its hat on defense, allowing just 34 points a game over 29 games.

Cedar Cliff scored more points against Norwin than any opponent had all year.

Brozeski has been around good teams, WPIAL championship-winning teams (2015, ‘16).

The ‘15 Lady Knights also made the state semis but lost to Cumberland Valley, 56-40, also at Altoona.

Brozeski likes to talk about growth in his teams and how they mature over the course of a long season — and offseason (the game is practically year-round now).

“Sometimes when you get to the playoffs, teams become stagnant and are either unable or unwilling to improve,” he said. “This team embraced and sought ways to improve both their individual game and our team schematic.”

Norwin’s key nucleus gained valuable lessons as it advanced through big moments and past strong opponents.

“I think that we all definitely learned that when we come together and play as a team and for each other, that we can accomplish so much more than anyone ever thought,” junior center Lauren Palangio said. “We are all great players, and when we put that together to play for each other, it is so much fun.”

The 6-foot-1 Palangio will be one of the top returning post players in the WPIAL. Her backcourt teammates are blossoming, too.

Sophomore Kendall Berger asserted herself as a key scorer, while junior Ava Kobus delivered run-sparking 3-pointers and staunch defense, and Bailey Snowberger was a calming presence at the point.

“You kidding me? They are going to be insanely good,” North Allegheny coach Spencer Stefko said. “Don’t remind me of that.”

Throw in an evolving and rotating crop of reserves — freshman Ava Christopher, sophomores Avery Brozeski and Bell Furno, junior Kendall Williams (injured) — and the Lady Knights have the look of another winner.

Three seniors will be missed, all of whom played important roles, in starter Kate Botti, Savannah Schneck and Tori Sydeski.

The motivation for the returnees will come easy next season.

“I think that the way this season ended leaves us with motivation for next season now,” Palangio said. “We made a good run and got really far, but now we have the motivation to make it even farther next year.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

Tags:

More Basketball

What to watch for in WPIAL sports for Feb. 26, 2024: Finals hopefuls meet in district semifinals
WPIAL girls basketball PIAA qualifiers through Feb. 25, 2024
WPIAL boys basketball PIAA qualifiers through Feb. 25, 2024
Trib HSSN boys basketball player of the week for Feb. 25, 2024
This week on Trib HSSN for week of Feb. 26, 2024