When healthy, Norwin girls basketball tough to beat

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Friday, December 3, 2021 | 6:30 PM


Norwin has four starters back, but those players rarely formed the same lineup last season because injuries would not allow it.

Junior Savannah Schneck and senior Alyssa Laukus missed a combined nine games last season, which gave junior Lauren Palangio a chance to make her name known in the post.

The 6-foot-2 Palangio gave the perennial power Knights a boost and helped them reach the WPIAL Class 6A semifinals, where they dropped a 33-31 decision to Upper St. Clair, a team that beat them 52-39 in the 2019-20 quarterfinals.

She joined mainstay Bri Zajicek, who returns for her last prep season hoping for a healthy rotation. The 5-foot-11 senior gives the Knights options as a shooting guard and small forward.

“I think we’re going to be a better team,” said Zajicek, a Division II Alderson Broaddus commit. “We should be good in transition, running out a lot, and we should have an advantage with size.”

Zajicek averaged 12 points and 29 minutes per game, and Palangio produced four points and 4.2 rebounds in 18 minutes per contest.

“We have some veteran players coming back,” coach Brian Brozeski said. “But we also have a lot of (unproven players). We need time to see where they fit in and what they can do. We’re looking for that top six or eight to work into the rotation.”

Laukus is back and ready to contribute, but Schneck tweaked her knee in a recent scrimmage. She had surgery last year to repair a torn ACL. Her playing status is uncertain for now.

“We did a good job dealing with injuries last year,” Zajicek said. “Injuries are hard, but we had some other girls step in.”

Seniors Maggie Race and Chloe Lukondi also return to provide leadership and key minutes.

“We’re not sure how we’ll look,” Brozeski said. “It’s about finding everyone’s strengths, filling out the puzzle.

“If we have to play half-court based on our personnel, then we can do that. If we get out and play 90 feet out, we’ll do that as well.”

Norwin missed a week last year because of covid-19 protocols.

“It’s nice to be able to get back to a routine,” Brozeski said. “We had girls making TikTok videos to go over plays. It’s nice to have everyone together in the gym again.”

If Norwin can get to the playoffs again, it will be the program’s 20th straight appearance.

“There’s a lot of pressure here to win,” Zajicek said. “We all know the expectation, and anything below that is unacceptable.”

Speaking of playoffs, Norwin has eight volleyball players who went to the WPIAL postseason in the fall.

Norwin girls at a glance

At a glance

Coach: Brian Brozeski

Last year’s record: 13-5, 9-3 (Section 1-6A)

Returning starters: Alyssa Laukus (Sr., G), Lauren Palangio (So., F), Savannah Schneck (Jr., G/F), Bri Zajicek (Sr., G/F)

Top newcomers: Chloe Lukondi (Sr., G), Maggie Race (Sr., G)

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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