East Xtra: Norwin ready for playoffs

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Entering the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs, there are few teams hotter than Norwin.

The Knights are riding a 10-game winning streak into the postseason.

Norwin's regular season and winning streak was capped with a 65-61 win at Penn-Trafford last Friday.

The win allowed Norwin (16-5, 13-1) to share the section title with Penn-Trafford (16-5, 13-1). It is the first section title for Norwin since 2009-10.

The win avenged a 45-39 loss to Penn-Trafford on Jan. 14, Norwin's last loss.

"The girls did a really nice job all week preparing for that game and keeping everything in perspective," Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. "I was pleased with their mental focus. We went in with a good mindset. They weren't too tight and they were able to play their game without being too caught up with the magnitude of the game."

Brozeski said the biggest difference in the second game was the physical play of his team.

"In the first meeting, we got physically outplayed," Brozeski said. "They got all the 50-50 balls. This time we had to match P-T's intensity. They are a physical group. I really liked the physical attitude that the girls brought to the game."

Last season Norwin finished the regular season 12-10. It went 10-4 in section play to finish third. In the playoffs Norwin defeated Penn Hills in a preliminary-round game before losing to Bethel Park in the first round. Bethel Park would go on to win the WPIAL championship.

The win against Penn-Trafford should make the postseason road an easier one for the Knights, who will not have to play a preliminary-round game.

With a 16-team field, tournament play for the Knights will commence Tuesday when they take on Penn Hills (14-8, 8-4), the third-place team out of Section 2-AAAA, at a site and time to be determined.

"Right now, we are all back at 0-0," Brozeski said. "We are starting a new season. As nice as it is to have momentum, you are only as good as your next game."

Norwin graduated six players from last season's team. This season, seniors Angela Tyke and Julia Carter have stepped up as team leaders.

"From the start of the season, Julia Carter and Angela Tyke have been committed," Brozeski said. "They were committed to every practice, every workout session, every lifting session. They set a good tone for the entire team and throughout the season our underclassmen have stepped up."

Norwin uses a four-guard lineup with 6-foot-2 junior forward Laura Buchanan starting in the post. The starting guards are Carter, who is 5-5, 6-0 sophomore Alayna Gribble, 5-2 junior Amanda Batey and 5-8 junior Delaney Arbore.

Gribble has emerged as one of the top scorers in the WPIAL.

"Alayna has evolved into a complete offensive player," Brozeski said. "She can do it inside and outside, she can penetrate and score and she can set up one-on-one moves. She has really grown as a scorer for us over the past year. She has shown a lot of growth from a freshman to a sophomore."

Gribble is averaging 17.6 points per game. Batey is one of the best ballhandlers on the team but she can also score. In a 71-67 win against Hempfield Area late in the season Batey hit seven 3-pointers and finished with 24 points.

Norwin has bench strength as well with Brozeski bringing 5-8 freshman Danielle McMaster, Tyke, who is 5-6, 5-10 sophomore Taylor Sabol and 5-11 sophomore Jenna Cole off the bench.

"One of our focuses was getting into the other team's bench," Brozeski said. "We believe our bench is as deep as anyone's in the WPIAL."

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