Penn-Trafford boys hold off Norwin charge

Friday, February 12, 2021 | 10:06 PM

For a several-minute stretch late in the first half, Penn-Trafford looked nearly unstoppable. The Warriors ran off 14 straight points to take a 14-point lead over Norwin.

Their guards were slashing to the rim, 3-pointers were falling, and they had established a post presence.

But the plot thickened in the second half.

“We looked to attack their zone, and we got some transition points,” Warriors senior guard Josh Kapcin said. “But we had to keep attacking and play better as a unit. We needed to do a better job (with the lead).”

It wasn’t that No. 5 Penn-Trafford took its foot off the accelerator, but Norwin managed to carve the deficit down substantially in the fourth quarter before the Warriors held on for a 53-50 victory in a Section 3-6A game Friday night in North Huntingdon.

Penn-Trafford won to earn a season split with its rival, but the team was not exactly celebrating after the game.

“We were tentative; they pressed and we were standing around,” Penn-Trafford coach Doug Kelly said. “Something changed with us when the pressure came. We have to catch the ball and be strong with it.”

The Warriors, who snapped a two-game skid, have now played in six games decided by four points or less. They are 4-2 in those games.

While there were some unforced errors on the part of Penn-Trafford (8-5, 4-4), the tight finish also had something to do with Norwin (5-9, 2-6), which played with a short bench because its junior varsity team had to quarantine over to a covid-19 case.

The Knights, who have dropped three straight and six of seven, trimmed a double-digit margin to six to start the fourth and did not allow the Warriors to make two consecutive baskets in the final eight minutes, when Penn-Trafford had just two field goals.

Coach Buddy Valinsky only had three reserves, but the Knights nearly came all the way back. They never led, but tied it 48-48 on two free throws from sophomore Adam Bilinsky, who matched Kapcin with a game-high 20 points.

Kapcin scored to make it 50-48 and senior Chase Vecchio made a pair of free throws with 57.5 left for a four-point lead.

Norwin sophomore point guard Kaleb Pryor’s floater fell with 42 seconds to make it 52-50, before Kapcin made one last foul shot with 7.6.

Norwin had one final chance but had the ball knocked out of bounds, giving it just a tenth of a second to inbound and time ran out.

“P-T did some great things tonight. Give them credit,” Bilinsky said. “They really played good defense. It was tough at the end. We didn’t have a timeout there to set something up.”

Norwin led 15-12 after the first quarter, with Bilinsky scoring nine. The Warriors ramped it up in the second, scoring 23 points, nine by Kapcin.

Kapcin and Vecchio traded assists to one another to put Penn-Trafford in front and, after Norwin went up 21-20 on a jumper by senior Nick Fleming, the Warriors ran off 14 straight, with junior Nick Crum making a 3 and junior Noah Wright connected on two 3s. Kapcin’s was fouled on a layup and made the foul shot to give the Warriors a 35-21 lead just before the half.

“I liked the way we played the first two quarters,” Kelly said. “There were just things we worked on. We changed when they started to get close.”

Down 41-27 early in the third, Norwin used a 12-3 run to get within 44-38.

An interesting post matchup took shape with Penn-Trafford 6-foot-6 junior Ben Myers going against Norwin 6-4 senior Jayden Walker. Myers finished with 13 points, 11 after halftime, while Walker ended up with 12.

“Ben made some big baskets for us,” Kapcin said.

Fleming finished with 11 for the Knights, who had just four scorers. Of course, the Warriors only had five.

“When we attack like that, that’s who we are,” Bilinsky said. “We did some good things, but they outplayed us.”

Penn-Trafford held junior Michael Fleming scoreless. Fleming had 27 points and five 3-pointers, scoring 24 in the second half, when the Knights topped the Warriors, 66-59, earlier in the season.

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

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