Regardless of rankings, Norwin girls have look of WPIAL title contender

Wednesday, January 4, 2023 | 9:01 AM

When Brian Brozeski played football at Blairsville in the late 1990s, his team was ranked No. 1 in its classification and was considered one of the top teams in the state.

But even then, the lofty rating didn’t sit well with Brozeski, who is now the girls basketball coach at Norwin.

“We lost our first game in the playoffs that year,” said Brozeski, a standout defensive back who went on to play at Penn State. “I never liked rankings. I don’t read papers or pay attention to any of that stuff.”

Brozeski, like many coaches, is a proponent of playing well and letting the rest take care of itself. And that even goes for his Lady Knights (9-1), who are surging and hold the No. 1 ranking in WPIAL Class 6A, along with the No. 4 spot in the TribHSSN state rankings.

Norwin has the look of a title contender, regardless of the number that precedes it.

“You want to be able to build consistency. That is what matters,” Brozeski said. “If you can do that all season long, good things can happen. We’re playing well now, but we want to be playing even better later in the season.”

Norwin opened Section 1 play with a one-sided victory over rival North Allegheny, 53-32, as three players scored in double figures — one of the classic ingredients of any Norwin victory this season, alongside unrelenting team defense and a deep, frequently subbing bench.

“Hopefully, we can stay No. 1,” junior center Lauren Palangio said. “We have really jelled well on and off the court. We need to stay focused at practice and keep working on our game.”

Norwin’s one hiccup was a 47-37 loss to McKeesport that included a scoreless third quarter. Brozeski knows top-ranked teams don’t have scoreless quarters.

“We talked about it, but it’s something that stays with you,” he said. “We know we don’t want it to happen again. McKeesport is a good team. We got stagnant on offense, and shots weren’t falling.”

But maybe that was a fluke quarter and game. Take that result away, and Norwin is averaging 51.6 points and allowing 30.3.

“I really like how we work to get better shots,” Brozeski said. “Girls move the ball until we get the best look. They know to get the ball to the hot hand.”

Sophomore guard Kendall Berger, who has emerged as one of several scoring threats, said a buzz word around the team is “unselfish.”

There is a play-for-each-other air about the team.

“One more pass,” Berger said. “We are always unselfish and play as a team.”

Against North Allegheny, sophomore Ava Kobus was shooting well from long range, and the Lady Knights spotted her in the corners and wings for four 3-pointers.

“Ava was hitting, so we wanted to get her the ball,” Berger said. “Nobody is worried about being the high scorer.”

Palangio, senior Kate Botti, junior point guard Bailey Snowberger and others have visited the scoring column many times. Even senior Savannah Schneck, who has battled multiple knee injuries, has been a key contributor.

“If you can help the helper, you do it,” Palangio said.

Brozeski, who won WPIAL championships in 2015 and ’16, likes the closeness of this team. So do the players.

“When we’re not playing, we can hang out and do things together,” Palangio said. “It wasn’t always like that in the past.”

Getting back to rankings, Norwin has beaten a few ranked teams. It toppled six teams that have been ranked in the top five in their respective classes at one time this season in Indiana, Penn-Trafford, Latrobe, South Fayette, North Catholic and North Allegheny.

Brozeski admits to using rankings hype from other teams to fuel his players.

“I don’t like all the hype,” he said. “You don’t want ‘I’s’ to overtake ‘We’s.’ If you’re just worried about getting your name in the paper, that’s not what we’re about.

“But it’s nice to go against a team with all that hype. It fires you up.”

This year, teams are fired up to play Norwin.

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


More High School Basketball

Westmoreland County Senior Spotlight: Greensburg Salem’s Ashlan Price
Hampton point guard Meghan Murray commits to Kent State
Westmoreland high school notebook: Znavor takes over Yough girls basketball team
Kiski Area’s Johns excited to commit to Shippensburg for basketball
Longtime Sewickley Academy athletic director Win Palmer, who also coached 3 sports, dies at 65