Penn-Trafford puts clamps on Norwin during Section 3-6A victory

Tuesday, January 18, 2022 | 10:09 PM

Penn-Trafford could have praised its offensive play, particularly its long-range shooting — after holding back rival Norwin.

But the Warriors were more about what they did on the other end of the floor following a 56-45 victory over the Knights in Section 3-6A.

While a strong shooting start was a big key, it was their defensive play that allowed the Warriors (7-7, 3-2) to create distance and maintain it Tuesday night in Harrison City.

“Our defense the past two games has been the best we’ve played all season,” said Warriors senior guard Noah Wright, who scored a team-high 18 points. “We won this game on the defensive end.”

Norwin guard Michael Fleming scored 27 points at Penn-Trafford last year when the Knights pulled out a 66-59 victory. The senior was held in check this time, tallying just eight.

Junior Adam Bilinsky did the heavy lifting for the Knights (4-7, 1-4) with a game-best 21 points, 15 in the second half when Norwin cut a 20-point deficit to six.

He couldn’t do it all by himself.

“(Senior) Johnny DeMarchis doesn’t have a lot of statistics, but he’s the heart of our defense,” Penn-Trafford assistant coach Andy LoNigro said. “He and (junior) Tommy (Kalkstein) really played well for us on defense against their top guys. Nick Crum, too. It was like the other night at Hempfield when they guarded their best guys. “

Penn-Trafford made eight 3-pointers and only trailed once early.

“We knew Norwin was going to shoot the ball better in the second half, so we had to defend,” LoNigro said.

“We wanted to hold them to one shot (on each possession). In the second quarter, we really rebounded well defensively.”

Warriors head coach Doug Kelly was absent from the game. He had flu-like symptoms and decided to stay home as a precaution.

LoNigro said he just guided the ship.

“(Kelly) has set up this atmosphere here,” he said. “The mindset and everything we do is all him. I just wanted to carry that out.”

Norwin, which shot just 7 of 15 from the foul line, rallied from 34-14 down in the second quarter to get within earshot of the Warriors in the second half.

A bad second quarter proved to be too much to overcome.

The Warriors used a big second frame — on the strength of five 3-pointers — to pull away in the first half, outscoring the Knights 23-8 to take a 34-16 lead into halftime.

Wright made two 3s, while Greene, junior Giovani Merola and Sabol each hit one as the Warriors found their touch from long range.

“That was a terrible quarter for us,” Norwin coach Lance Maha said. “Penn-Trafford competes and they pressure you. If we’d have made a couple layups early, it might have been different.”

Defensively, Penn-Trafford forced Norwin to take tough shots, many that seemed rushed.

DeMarchis scored the first six points of the game for the Warriors.

The Knights outscored Penn-Trafford, 17-7, in the third as Bilinsky began to get into a rhythm. He had seven in the third as the Knights got to within 41-33.

Penn-Trafford had to recalibrate after junior forward Conlan Greene (11 points) ran into foul trouble. He picked up his fourth in the final quarter, and Norwin began to make its move with him benched.

“Our guards, Kalkstein and DeMarchis, they play like they’re 6-4,” LoNigro said.

Bilinsky’s steal and score to start the fourth cut the lead to 41-35. But Wright and sophomore Jason Sabol made 3s to push the lead back to double digits, at 47-35.

Norwin could only cut it to nine the rest of the way.

“We scrapped a lot harder in the second half but we were impatient when we got down,” Maha said. “We ran out of gas a little bit. There are no 11-point plays.”

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

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