Norwin’s depth fuels victory over Hempfield as Knights improve to 8-0 in section

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Thursday, February 1, 2024 | 10:55 PM


Norwin didn’t have its best game offensively on senior night and left the door open just enough for cold-shooting Hempfield to get its hopes up.

Senior point guard Bailey Snowberger left the floor just before halftime with a significant nosebleed, and shots were not falling for Norwin as it tried to add to its lead.

But Norwin has a way of filling in the gaps with its long bench.

“Next man up, if you will,” coach Brian Brozeski said. “We look for that spark.”

The Knights’ depth, like it has many times in the past, made a difference again as the No. 2-ranked team in 6A stayed far enough ahead of the Spartans to avoid concern in a 49-31 victory Thursday night in Section 1 girls basketball.

The bench of Norwin (16-3, 8-0) outscored the counterparts’ from Hempfield, 17-7, as the Knights stretched their winning streak to seven. They have won nine of 10.

This win secured at least a share of the section title.

“We work together as a family,” Norwin junior reserve Averi Brozeski said. “We try to keep boosting each other’s confidence.”

Sophomore Ava Christopher, a regular starter, gave way to senior Kendall Williams, who has not played all season due to a knee injury. Williams got the start and scored the first basket of the night.

Williams, who tore her ACL in the AAU season during the spring and went through rehabilitation, wore a brace but jogged cautiously. She said she would be cleared to return to full speed in March.

Christopher, in a sixth-girl role, scored eight points, including four in a row late in the third after Hempfield (8-12, 1-7) cut an 18-point deficit to 34-21.

Junior Bella Furno added seven points off the bench.

“It’s crazy,” Hempfield coach Bob Madison said. “Their four girls off the bench could start anywhere. They’ve got it all.”

Brian Brozeski had reserves ready all night, often rotating three or four girls at a time, which is one of the staples to his coaching style.

“We keep it fluid,” he said. “It’s often based on matchups. The rotation would be 10, or it could be seven. You don’t always know going in.”

Senior Lauren Palangio led Norwin with 14 points, and junior Kendall Berger added 12, with 10 coming before halftime.

With seven girls scoring, Norwin led by 10 after the first quarter and used a 10-0 run to take a 25-7 lead halfway through the second quarter.

Berger scored off a feed from Palangio to make it 27-9, and it was 29-15 at the half.

Hempfield had a number of open looks early but could not finish despite getting to the rim.

Norwin blitzed Hempfield, 61-23, in the teams’ first meeting.

Hempfield was coming off an impressive 36-32 win over Seneca Valley that snapped an eight-game losing streak.

“I loved our effort,” Madison said. “That might be the best 6A team in the entire state of Pennsylvania we just played. If we make some of those layups on backdoors, who knows what happens?”

Snowberger attempted to take charge and received multiple cuts on her nose as a result.

Her mother, Norwin athletic trainer Angie Snowberger, quickly helped her daughter to the locker room. The game was paused briefly as blood was wiped from the court.

“It was a memorable senior night, for sure,” Snowberger said with a smile, the bridge of her nose taped. “I never had something like that happen before. There was like 30 seconds of blood coming out, and I asked Mr. (Mike) Burrell what the score was (at halftime). When he told me, I knew I was going back in.”

She came back wearing No. 45 because her No. 3 jersey was soaked with blood.

“Her senior quote was from Rocky,” Brian Brozeski said. “It’s not about getting knocked down, it’s about how you get up. She’s a fighter. She took one square on her nose.”

After Hempfield senior Sarah Podkul opened the fourth with a layup, Palangio made back-to-back baskets to stretch the advantage to 44-23.

“Seeing everyone connect on passes is so much fun to watch,” Norwin sophomore backup guard Alexa Kobus said.

Sophomore Gabby Coccia scored four straight for Hempfield, but Furno’s 3 made it 47-27 with 2:20 remaining.

“Give Hempfield credit, they took away some things we wanted to do,” Brian Brozeski said.

Said Bailey Snowberger: “We didn’t have our cleanest game, but sometimes adversity is as good as success.”

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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