Westmoreland County high school notebook: Curtain call for Norwin stars

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Saturday, March 30, 2024 | 11:01 AM


The Norwin girls will get the band back together for one last performance.

Three senior players — Lauren Palangio, Ava Kobus and Bailey Snowberger — will join their coach, Brian Brozeski, on the Class 6A all-star basketball team at the Roundball Classic on May 26 at North Allegheny.

The foursome won a WPIAL championship together earlier this month at Petersen Events Center and will get a sendoff when they play a Class 5A team at 5 p.m.

There will be 14 games over four days (May 23-26), seven all-senior games and seven boys underclassmen games.

Three Westmoreland County boys duos will play in the event: Franco Alvarez and Tyree Turner of Greensburg Central Catholic, Cam Rowell and Cooper Rankin of Franklin Regional and Terek Crosby and Austin Matthews of Yough.

Other county boys selections include Isaiah Mallich of Jeannette, Tyler Freas of Penn-Trafford, Lorenzo Gardner of Monessen, Ryan Burkart of Greensburg Salem, Ty Keffer of Southmoreland, Macky Bennis of Burrell, Nate Papuga of Derry, Dylan McCullough of Norwin and Isaiah Gonzales of Kiski Area.

County girls all-stars are Mya Morgan and Avery Davis of Greensburg Central Catholic, Ashley Hosni and Sara Podkul of Hempfield, Kaitlyn Mankins and Ashlan Price of Greensburg Salem, Hailey Johnson of Monessen, Autumn Matthews of Yough, Kenzi Seliga of Belle Vernon, Angelina Brush of Franklin Regional, Abbie Johns of Kiski Area, Olivia Pepple of Penn-Trafford and Elle Snyder of Latrobe. Chris Skatell of GCC (Class 2A/District 10) and Rick Klimchock of Greensburg Salem (Class 4A/City League) will join Brozeski as coaches in the event.

There are always family connections to the Roundball. In this instance, Austin and Autumn Matthews are siblings, and Burkart and Price are cousins.

Schwerha goes D-1

Belle Vernon senior football punter Willie Schwerha accepted a preferred walk-on offer to Delaware State of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

Schwerha averaged 36.8 yards per punt last season, placing 10 inside the 20-yard line, with a long of 62 yards.

He also kicked off for the back-to-back WPIAL and PIAA 3A champion Leopards, averaging 48.6 yards with six touchbacks.

“I have known I was going to be a D-1 punter since I started getting good at punting the ball at the end of my sophomore year,” Schwerha said. “It has been my dream since I was a kid to play college football. I have worked mostly on my consistency. As a specialist, that’s the most important part.”

Rankin Regional

Rankin had a terrific senior season, finishing as the second-leading scorer on a team that went 27-4 and reached the WPIAL and PIAA 5A finals.

Sounds a lot like what his father did when he was a senior in high school.

Bret Rankin was a standout guard at Punxsutawney, which finished as the District 9 and PIAA 4A runner-up in 1992.

Bret’s team went 28-3 that season, upsetting Farrell, the No. 1 team in the state, in the PIAA semifinals.

Norwin cross country and track and field coach Brian Fleckenstein was a freshman on that Punxsutawney team.

“That season was like Hoosiers,” Fleckenstein said. “Good times.”

Smith to RMU

Standout bowler Brandon Smith of Franklin Regional will continue his career at Robert Morris. Smith won the WPIBL championship this season and helped the Panthers to a team title.

Killing it

A pair of Westmoreland County boys volleyball juniors were recognized for their solid play of late.

Both setters, Nathaniel Rugh of Penn-Trafford (Class 3A) and Eric Bisignani of Latrobe (Class 2A) were named players of the week by the Western PA Volleyball Coaches Association.

The latest WPVCA rankings had Norwin at No. 4, Penn-Trafford No. 5 and Hempfield No. 8 in Class 3A.

In 2A, Latrobe was ranked No. 3 and Derry was 8th.

Molter to Mercyhurst

Jeannette senior Payton Molter committed to Mercyhurst, where he will play linebacker.

Molter, who also was a standout quarterback for the Jayhawks, had 32 tackles last season, 31 solo, two fumble recoveries and one sack.

He passed for 1,573 yards and 20 touchdowns and rushed for 477 yards and eight scores.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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