Tigers Edge Knights In WPIAL Semifinal Thriller, 37-36

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Junior Katerina Balouris delivered the game-winning layup with seven seconds to play, and secured a steal on Norwin’s final last-ditch possession, to propel North Allegheny to a 37-36 triumph over the Knights in the WPIAL Class 6A semifinals on Tuesday night at Fox Chapel High School. The Tigers will make their fourth straight appearance in the WPIAL championship game and will vie for a three-peat at “The Pete” in Pittsburgh on Saturday. North Allegheny will take on undefeated Peters Township in a rematch of last year’s Class 6A title tilt.

The co-section champions from Section 1-6A dueled in a classic WPIAL semifinal on Tuesday night and the game proved to be another thriller between the two squads. The last time these teams met, Norwin edged North Allegheny 44-43 on a Jayla Wehner runner with six seconds to play on Jan. 29 in Irwin.

In the first quarter, North Allegheny opened the game with a 3-pointer by sophomore Lizzy Groetsch and held the lead for the entire first half. The Tigers led by as much as 11 points in the second quarter at 23-12 before Norwin chipped away with a pair of Danielle Rosso treys to cut the score to 26-20 by halftime. North Allegheny senior Rachel Martindale had the hot hand in the early going, scoring 15 of her 17 points in the first half, including five 3-pointers.

Norwin stormed out of the gates in the third quarter and used a 12-0 run to grab a 32-26 advantage with 3:34 remaining in the period. Junior Olivia Gribble and senior Jessica Kolesar each contributed with a 3-pointer during the Knights’ run.  

Following an NA timeout, Martindale hit a pull-up jumper from the mid blocks and senior Brynn Serbin knocked down a 3-pointer before the third-quarter buzzer to trim the Norwin lead to 32-31.

The final quarter was a low-scoring stanza with five lead changes. The Tigers took the lead on a Groetsch reverse layup with 4:40 remaining for a 33-32 advantage. The Knights leapfrogged ahead on a Wehner drive to the rim for a 34-33 lead with 1:56 remaining.

The score stayed that way until Groetsch went to the line for a pair of free-throws with 36 seconds to play. The Big 56 Conference first-team all-section guard made both free throws to pull NA ahead, 35-34. The lead was short-lived as Norwin jumped ahead at 36-35 on another Wehner layup with 16 seconds remaining.

North Allegheny’s ensuing possession ended on what proved to be the game-winning basket by Balouris, assisted by Groetsch, with seven seconds to go for 37-36 North Allegheny lead. Norwin called a timeout with 2.2 seconds remaining to set up a last-ditch attempt to win it. The inbounds pass under the basket was tipped and stolen by Balouris who secured the turnover and the win for a return trip to the Petersen Events Center on Saturday night.

Martindale led all scorers with 17 points, followed by Groetsch who netted 15. For her clutch free-throws and game-winning assist, Groetsch was named the Wright Automotive Player of the Game by the North Allegheny Sports Network.

Norwin was paced by senior Emily Brozeski’s 10 points, followed by Wehner who ended the night with nine points, including two crucial baskets in the fourth quarter.

With the win, North Allegheny improves to 23-1 on the season and advances to the WPIAL Class 6A championship game to face the Peters Township Indians. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live via the internet by the North Allegheny Sports Network.

Norwin falls to 21-2 on the campaign and will participate in the PIAA playoffs next week.

Girls Basketball vs. Norwin, 2-26-19

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