Suman, Penn-Trafford steal the show, top No. 3 Norwin in final seconds

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Thursday, February 10, 2022 | 10:37 PM


Penn-Trafford stole one. Literally.

A flurry of late takeaways, including two by Maura Suman — their all-time steals leader and lone senior — along with some three-point plays down the stretch, propelled the Lady Warriors to a spirited 37-36 upset over No. 3 Norwin on Thursday night in the Section 1-6A girls basketball finale in Harrison City.

Penn-Trafford (12-8, 9-5) came back from 16 down late in the third quarter by outscoring Norwin (15-5, 12-2), 16-2, over the final eight minutes.

The Warriors extended their winning streak to six, and Norwin’s ended at seven in a row.

The finish made the rematch a far cry from the 29-14 defensive struggle Norwin won over the Lady Warriors earlier in the season. That night, neither team had a double-digit quarter, each made just six two-point field goals and Penn-Trafford failed to make a 3-pointer.

But it was still a case of two of the section’s best defensive teams, rivals and playoff teams, exchanging blows, jockeying for position around the rim and trying to stay calm with the lead.

“It was grit at the end,” said Suman, who scored a game-high 15 points and swiped three steals, adding to her career total. “It’s always a game when we play Norwin. My mom always tells me, defense wins games.”

Suman was honored during the starting lineups after she set the steals mark earlier in the season.

“We switched from man to zone to keep them off-balance,” Suman said. “We wanted to anticipate and attack.”

Penn-Trafford had 13 steals, including four by junior Kylee Piconi and three by sophomore Olivia Pepple, both of whom had a hand in the fourth-quarter surge.

With Norwin up 34-21 to start the fourth, Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas waited for the right time to go to a full-court press. When the Lady Warriors did, Norwin had trouble getting the ball over the midcourt line.

Pepple, who had eight points, scored off a steal and finished a three-point play to cut it to 34-29.

Then, Suman swiped one away and zipped a pass to Pepple, who was fouled and converted to make it 34-32 with 1 minutes, 12 seconds remaining.

With a minute left, Pepple stepped in front of another pass and hit Piconi for a tying layup.

“Our defense picked up,” Giannikas said. “I love our guards. They kept working. Suman and Pepple in the fourth … they are two special players. Kylee did her thing. She’s unsung.”

Norwin senior Brianna Zajicek found an opening underneath off a feed from freshman Kendall Berger to make it 36-34 with 38.6 seconds left.

Penn-Trafford sent the ball in on a side-out, but Norwin wasn’t ready and Suman scored easily off the glass off a lob from Piconi. She was fouled and hit the and-1 to give her team a 37-36 lead.

Norwin turned it over, then got it back inside the final 20 seconds, but could not get a good look.

With one last chance for Norwin and one last second to do it on an inbound from midcourt, Suman ran in front of Zajicek and secured the game-sealing steal as time expired.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our girls,” Giannikas said. “Norwin is a heck of a team. No one respects them as much as we do. Nothing was easy tonight. We earned it.”

The loss hurt Norwin’s hopes of winning the section outright and it could drop the Knights’ stock when Monday’s playoff seedings come out.

“Their girls made some great plays at the end, and they were in good positions to make them,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. “This is what a playoff game feels like. Our girls were engaged the whole way. Penn-Trafford just made the plays.”

Senior Alyssa Laukus led the Knights with 12 points, and Zajicek, who made a buzzer-beating 3 from just behind the half-court stripe with a baseball heave to end the third, added 10. Laukus had eight in the third as Norwin built a 27-11 advantage.

Norwin has been dealing with injuries. Senior guard Chloe Lukondi missed her third straight game with an ankle injury, and sophomore reserve guard Bailey Snowberger did not play with a knee injury.

Sophomore forward Lauren Palangio was not 100% with a left shoulder issue and left the game twice.

Norwin still is expected to get a top-5 seed and play at home in the first round.

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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