Norwin takes punch from Chartiers Valley, rallies to reach PIAA 6A quarterfinals

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Tuesday, March 12, 2024 | 8:53 PM


Trailing by double figures for the first time all season could have sent Norwin into a downward spiral and shut down its hopes of winning a state championship.

Instead, it charged up the Lady Knights and made their grand escape that much more impressive.

WPIAL champion Norwin rallied from 11 points down late in the second quarter to brush past Chartiers Valley, 56-47, in a PIAA Class 6A second-round playoff game Tuesday night at AHN Arena in Peters Township.

Norwin (23-3) advances to the quarterfinals to take on District 1 runner-up Spring-Ford (23-5), a team it lost to earlier in the season, on Friday night.

Spring-Ford beat Peters Township, 74-53, in the second round Tuesday.

“We could have gone two directions,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. “Our girls decided they wanted to win. Our defense got better, and they found it in the second half.”

The Lady Knights made it 14 straight wins in the playoff rematch but not before Chartiers Valley (17-9) used hot shooting to present a much greater challenge than it had in the WPIAL semifinals.

Norwin won that game 63-47.

Norwin lost senior forward Lauren Palangio briefly to an ankle injury early in the second quarter. That was just about the time the Colts found their rhythm.

A 9-0 run gave them a 19-11 advantage.

They maintained control through to halftime, with junior Lilah Turnbull and senior Ella Cupka hitting 3-pointers before Turnbull’s layup made it 31-20.

Norwin cut it to seven at the half, then started to chip away when the Colts took a nine-point advantage.

“We knew we didn’t have to do anything extraordinary,” said Palangio, who returned and led all scorers with 16 points. “They gave us every reason to shut down. We had to put it together and play as a team. We didn’t need to be screamed at (at halftime) to light a fire. We knew what we had to do.”

Not that Brozeski screamed. He did think he had his girls too amped up early.

“I did a poor job early in the game,” the coach said. “I had them in a bad mindset. It’s like a sprinter. They aren’t their fastest when they’re all tensed up.”

Norwin’s win was more like a marathon than a sprint.

An 11-0 run sparked the Lady Knights and put them back in front.

Junior Kendall Berger had five straight points, and junior Bella Furno scored off a feed from junior Averi Brozeski to give Norwin a 35-33 edge with 2:11 left in the third.

The Colts stood their ground, though, early in the fourth, taking a 40-37 lead on a 3 from Cupka.

But that was the last time they were ahead.

Palangio scored four in a row, Berger hit a jumper and Brozeski delivered a block. Berger and Brozeski hit jumpers, and Furno got loose for a layup off a steal and suddenly Norwin led 49-42.

After allowing 17 points in the second quarter, Norwin only gave up six in the third.

“We had to keep calm after things got a little frantic,” said Furno, who had a playoff career high of 12 points. “We made some plays on defense, and that helped spark our offense.”

Despite a 3 from junior Ava Shazer, Norwin stayed in front.

Berger was fouled on a steal and made two free throws with 1:31 to go to make it 53-45.

Berger finished with 15.

Turnbull and Cupka each had 13, and junior Emma Reynolds had 11 for Chartiers Valley, the fourth-place team from the WPIAL.

“A lot of credit goes to Chartiers Valley,” Brian Brozeski said. “They went into that zone in the second quarter and caught us in rotation. That caused us to get anxious and got us scrambling. They had a great gameplan and played sound defense.

“No one says you have to be at 100% every game, but you have to have 100% heart.”

Norwin made one 3-pointer. Chartiers Valley made eight.

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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