High School Basketball Season Preview: Norwin Knights

The Knights boys look to return to the playoffs while the girls look for consistency this season

Fri Dec 02, 2022 - 12:12PM

Sean Meyers Sean Meyers
Ava Kobus and Adam Billinsky are among the top returners for Norwin this season. (Photo by www.westernpasports.com)Ava Kobus and Adam Billinsky are among the top returners for Norwin this season. (Photo by www.westernpasports.com)

Last Updated: Fri Dec 02, 2022 - 1:26PM

Norwin Knights Boys

Head Coach: Lance Maha – 2nd season

Conference: Class 6A Section 2

Last Season: 9-11 overall – lost to Butler Area in WPIAL Class 6A first round

Key Losses: Ty Stecko, Michael Fleming

Key Returners: Adam Bilinsky, Ryan Edwards, Justin Weaver

Promising Newcomers: Colin Gunzburger, Mike Mihalov, Trent Raspotnik, Jacob Murray, Dan Diven, Cullen Rahuba, Louie Botti, Luke Denny, Alex Wiggins, Noah Wilson, Dylan McCullough

Although Norwin boys basketball had a losing record last year, the Knights did achieve a significant accomplishment in the first season for head coach Lance Maha. Courtesy of a narrow victory against Penn-Trafford in the section finale, the Knights tied for fourth place in Class 6A Section 3, which resulted in a playoff appearance.

Now entering the second year with Maha in charge, the Knights eye further growth.

“Our goals are to improve and reach our potential; always want to compete for playoffs,” said Maha, who enjoyed considerable success during his 20-year stint at West Mifflin before coming to Norwin.

However, the Knights will be tasked with replacing a couple of valuable contributors, as both Ty Stecko and Michael Fleming have moved on after garnering Second-Team All-Section accolades.

While those absences loom large, Norwin returns three seniors starters, led by standout Adam Bilinsky. A Mercyhurst University commit, Bilinsky averaged 17 points and 11 rebounds last campaign en route to First-Team All-Section honors. He’ll be joined by another double-digit scorer, as Ryan Edwards posted 10 points and 5 assists per contest. The third returner, Justin Weaver, contributed 7 points and 5 boards on average a year ago.

Behind that triumvirate, however, the Knights have nearly a dozen players who are competing to earn spots in the rotation. That group includes senior guards Colin Gunzburger and Cullen Rahuba, senior center Mike Mihalov, senior forwards Trent Raspotnik, Jacob Murray, Dan Diven, and Louie Botti, junior guards Alex Wiggins, Noah Wilson, and Dylan McCullough, and junior forward Luke Denny.

Realignment has brought a drastic change to the section for the Knights, as only Norwin and Hempfield remain together from a year ago. The Knights and Spartans shift to Class 6A Section 2, and will compete against Baldwin, Canon-McMillan, Mount Lebanon, and Upper St. Clair. The Blue Devils and Panthers tied for the section crown last year, and each team won playoff contests, while the Highlanders and Spartans also qualified for the postseason.

Norwin opens the season with a home matchup against Jeannette, and the Knights don’t begin the conference slate until a road matchup against the Big Macs on Jan. 3.

Norwin Knights Girls

Head Coach: Brian Brozeski – 12th season

Conference: Class 6A Section 1

Last Season: 15-7 overall – lost to Bethel Park in the WPIAL Class 6A quarterfinals

Key Losses: Brianna Zajicek, Alyssa Laukus, Chloe Lukondi, Maggie Race

Key Returners: Savannah Schneck, Kate Botti, Tori Sydeski, Bailey Snowberger, Lauren Palangio, Kendall Williams, Ava Kobus, Kendall Berger

Promising Newcomers: Bella Furno, Lexi Heller, Averi Brozeski, Ava Christopher

Last year had the look of a special season for Norwin, as the Knights won 10 consecutive section contests at one point, including a shocking 25-point win against North Allegheny. Norwin lost its final three games of the campaign, however, including a home playoff loss to Bethel Park in the quarterfinals.

As a result, veteran head coach Brian Brozeski is stressing that his team will need to be steady from start to finish and peak at the right time this season in order to achieve its goals.

“The section, and 6A in general, is going to be competitive night in and night out. Thus, we are going to focus on not only performing at a high level, but performing at a high level consistently,” Brozeski stated.

The four players who graduated from a year ago were all contributors, and three of them have continued their basketball career collegiately. Guard Brianna Zajicek is playing for the University of Illinois Springfield, Alyssa Laukus is at Chatham University, and Chloe Lukondi has continued on the hardwood at the University of Pitt-Greensburg. Maggie Race was also a piece of the Knights’ rotation a year ago.

Norwin returns a talented collection of letterwinners, though, led by senior forwards Savannah Schneck, who has battled injuries throughout her career, and Kate Botti. Other returners include senior guard Tori Sydeski, junior guards Bailey Snowberger, Kendall Williams, Ava Kobus, and Kendall Berger, and junior forward Lauren Palangio.

Several underclassmen are also in the mix for more playing time, including sophomore guards Bella Furno and Averi Brozeski, sophomore forward Lexi Heller, and freshman guard Ava Christopher.

While Norwin remains in Class 6A Section 1, realignment has dwindled the section from eight teams to six. In addition to the Knights, North Allegheny, Seneca Valley, Pine-Richland, and Butler Area remain, while Hempfield Area joined the fold. Last campaign, the Tigers won the section, while the Raiders also qualified for the postseason.

The Knights will commence section play by hosting North Allegheny on Jan. 2. Prior to that, Norwin will embark upon a rigorous nonsection schedule, including showdowns with Penn-Trafford, Mount Lebanon, Greater Latrobe, South Fayette, McKeesport Area, and North Catholic.