Tall, experienced group returns as Norwin boys seek trip to postseason

Friday, December 4, 2020 | 3:06 PM

Everybody is back. They’re all seniors. And they’ve had more than a full season to get accustomed to their coach’s system.

It all adds up to four words. Watch out for Norwin.

“We’re leaps ahead of where we were at this time last year,” said second-year coach Buddy Valinsky, whose team finished 12-9 but struggled to score later in the season and missed the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs. “I’ll be shocked if we aren’t scoring more. We should be averaging 50 or 60 points a game. We have a senior-oriented team, and we know each other much better now. This could be the year.”

Norwin hasn’t experienced the WPIAL playoffs since the 2015-16 season.

Valinsky came in last year and replaced Lynn Washowich, who resigned after 17 seasons.

The new coach wanted to play fast, and the Knights did. But his system took time to learn and nurture.

With six seniors and some key newcomers set to take the floor, Valinsky has high hopes that this can be the group that springs back into the postseason conversation.

“We have most of our scoring back,” he said. “To tell you the truth, I’m pretty excited.”

The Knights have experience and size, and they could produce a number of double-digit scorers with their potential balance. If covid-19 affords them a chance to play, they should be among the favorites in Section 3-6A.

Leading scorer Ty Bilinsky (16.5 points per game) returns and will rejoin his brother Adam, a sophomore, in the starting five.

Adam Bilinsky spent much of last season in the sixth man spot, which likely will be occupied by senior Josh Williams until Ty Bilinsky fully recovers from an ankle injury he suffered in football.

Jayden Walker, who played about seven games last season after returning from shoulder surgery, could be a post-up force given a full season. The 6-foot-4 senior, who will play baseball at Mercyhurst, joins senior Nick Fleming (6-3) down low to form a physical tandem.

Fleming is a Mount St. Mary’s baseball recruit.

“We’re going to rely heavily on our three captains,” Valinsky said. “That’s Ty, Nick and Jayden. They’ve been here since 10th grade, before I started coaching here.”

Add 6-4 senior Tanner Krevokuch to the mix as a backup forward, and Norwin could lead the section in rebounds. Valinsky called Krevokuch a potential “secret weapon.”

“We want to pick it up, and we have some shooters,” said Valinsky, who retired from teaching physical education at Allderdice, his alma mater where he coached the Dragons to 226 wins and six City League titles. “But we might end up being old-school. We’ve worked on a lot of high-low. More outside-inside. Last year we were more outside-outside.”

Another newcomer to watch is sophomore Kaleb Pryor, a transfer from Gateway who is expected to take over at point guard after the graduation of Nate Patrarco, the team’s only senior last season.

“We have a lot of athletes on this team who play other sports,” Valinsky said. “Our two best players are both basketball (only) kids in Adam and Kaleb.”

Ty Bilinsky said the Knights’ initial goal is to compete for a section title.

“It’s nice having the size, and everyone pretty much healthy,” he said. “We are way ahead of coach’s system compared to last year.”

Senior Alex Gabauer, who showed touch from 3-point range, opted out of basketball so he can focus on baseball. He is a Penn recruit in that sport.

Junior Ty Stecko (6-2) and senior Connor McCutcheon should add minutes in the backcourt, the latter adding a defensive presence.

“There are no great players in 6A,” Valinsky said. “No one has great players in our section. We played against some good teams in the fall league and held our own. We’re much more aware now of our section competition.”

Valinsky pointed to Penn-Trafford as another talented team in the section, one that also lost one senior and a good one in point guard Zach Rocco.

Like most teams, Norwin is expected to play a filed-down schedule. The Knights had hoped to play a strong nonsection slate that included McDowell, Allderdice, Laurel Highlands and Pine-Richland. But those games likely won’t happen as teams look to place priority on section games.

Central Catholic and Greensburg Salem are new opponents in Section 3 as they join other holdovers in Fox Chapel and Hempfield — another team with size.

Norwin boys basketball at a glance

Coach: Buddy Valinsky

Last season’s record: 12-9 (3-7 Section 3-6A)

Returning starters: Adam Bilinsky (So., G), Ty Bilinsky (Sr., G), Nick Fleming (Sr., F), Jayden Walker (Sr., F)

Top newcomers: Tanner Krevokuch (Sr., F), Connor McCutcheon (Sr., G), Kaleb Pryor (So., G), Josh Williams (Sr., G)

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


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