Off to fast start, Norwin boys ready to be tested

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Thursday, December 19, 2019 | 5:20 PM


Fast starts in basketball are like a big explosion in the first five minutes of a movie.

While the scene engages the audience and might even pique their interest, it quickly is forgotten as the rest of the film plays out.

Norwin’s boys basketball team has set the tone with a hot start, but the Knights are trying to keep perspective despite their flash-bang prelude to section play.

Norwin, under new coach Buddy Valinsky, is 6-0 for its best start since 2014-15.

The Knights host Hempfield (2-4) on Friday night to open Section 3-6A play.

Like fans and opponents, Valinsky is out to find determine if his team is the real deal.

“It’s not a Yogi Berra expression to say you’d rather be 6-0 than 0-6,” said Valinsky, who left Allderdice to come to Norwin after winning six straight City League championships. “You want to be winning. It’s never a bad thing. But we’re not there yet. We’re not an elite 6-0 team. That’s the misconception.”

The combined record of Norwin’s opponents — just one of them is from Class 6A in Baldwin (3-2) — is 12-21.

Ringgold (3-1) and Mt. Pleasant (4-1) also have winning marks.

Norwin started 6-1 last year but finished 8-13 and missed the playoffs.

Valinsky talked about a five-year plan to help reshape the program, but Year 1 is so far, so good.

“We have to see how good we are in section,” Valinsky said. “I feel like I am getting our kids to believe in what I am trying to do. They don’t want to play losing teams. Winning a playoff game, that’s my success.”

That’s not to say Norwin hasn’t been good. The Knights are holding teams to 46.5 points while playing a more uptempo style and launching 3-pointers.

Copious amounts of 3-pointers.

“We live and die by them,” said junior guard Ty Bilinsky, who is scoring 18 points a game. Norwin has attempted 148 threes (24.5 a game). The Knights have made 44 of them.

“We know we have to shoot it well,” Valinsky said. “If we don’t, we could be down by 25 to a good team real quick. Our guys know they have a green light. If we get open shots, take them.”

Defense is improving steadily, which Valinsky likes to see. Against Jeannette on Tuesday in Norwin’s home opener, the Knights mixed zone and man-to-man schemes to force the Jayhawks into turnovers.

“We’re getting more comfortable with coach’s system,” junior forward Nick Fleming said. “It feels different and we’re playing faster, so it’s fun. The culture is different, too. People are talking about (the team) in school.”

Fleming averages 11 points, junior Josh Williams 8.2, junior Josh Govannucci and junior Alex Gabauer 7.2, and freshman Adam Bilinsky 6.8.

So it’s Valinsky, the Bilinskys and Co. out to get Norwin back into the WPIAL conversation.

Valinsky isn’t as surprised with the perfect start as much as he is with how the Knights have done it without junior forward Jayden Walker. The 6-foot-4 forward had offseason shoulder surgery and is not expected to play until early- to mid-January.

“He was cleared but for non-contact,” Valinsky said. “I am really looking forward to seeing him play. He’s a true post player, and we’ll get him the ball inside.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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