Second-year Norwin girls basketball coach Brian Brozeski hopes a deep bench equates to a deep playoff run.
Norwin is headed to the playoffs and perhaps no team in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoff field utilizes as many players as the Knights do. Brozeski usually rotates 10 to 11 players.
The deep bench has allowed Norwin to play aggressive and not worry too much about fouls or fatigue. It is a formula that has worked so far. Norwin finished the regular season 12-10 and 10-4 in Class AAAA Section 1 to finish third behind Hempfield Area (14-0) and Penn-Trafford (12-2).
The Knights will play Penn Hills (9-13, 5-7), which finished tied for fourth place in Section 2, in a preliminary-round game at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Gateway.
"Every section game is difficult," Brozeski said. "Our section was challenging night in, night out."
Brozeski took over as head coach of the girls' team after 11 years as an assistant with the Norwin boys' team. The Norwin boys' team under Brozeski and coach Lynn Washowich would typically maintain a deep bench and that is a formula Brozeski has brought with him to the girls' team.
"At the boys' level, this would be a style we preferred to have," Brozeski said. "We wanted to keep the fresh bodies out there and we wanted to make sure we could get into the other team's bench and see whose bench was deeper."
Norwin was often able to pull out wins in the fourth quarter. This season it knocked off a few Class AAAA playoff teams such as Shaler Area and Baldwin in non-section contests. The only section contests the Knights dropped were to the two teams that finished ahead of them in the section, Penn-Trafford and Hempfield. Norwin enters the playoffs having won four of its last six games.
With two returning starters and a number of other returning letter-winners along with a talented incoming freshmen class, Brozeski has plenty of experience and talent to call upon.
"If the situation or the matchup lends itself to a fast-paced game, an up-tempo game, that is something we can do," Brozeski said. "There have been games where [our deep bench] has paid dividends. What we really try to do is promote limiting turnovers and fouls."
Senior forwards Rachel DelleFemine and Rachel Keto both started last season.
Even though Norwin had to replace three other starters, with a deep rotation last year many young players were able to see significant playing time.
"With our rotation, it promotes a lot of participation," Brozeski said.
Alayna Gribble, a 5-foot-11 freshman guard, has made a big impact for Norwin. She is leading the team in scoring, averaging around 15 points per game.
She led Norwin with 13 points against Albert Gallatin and 14 against Laurel Highlands last week.
"She does a little bit of everything," Brozeski said. "Offensively, she has the ability to penetrate. She has a nice pull-up jumper.
"Defensively, she has length and can utilize her size to block shots and rebound. She handles the ball well, she is the complete package."
The point guard responsibilities are shared by freshman Dominique Petach and sophomore Amanda Batey.
Norwin gets contributions from every class, from freshmen such as Petach and Gribble to seniors DelleFemine, Keto and forward Madison Guffey, who led Norwin with 11 points in its regular-season finale against Penn-Trafford.
"It is a nice situation we have right now," Brozeski said. "We have younger players and we have seniors sprinkled in. We want to keep everything rolling as we go and not have to start from scratch every season."