Looking up and down Norwin’s roster, you won’t find one true game-changer capable of scoring 30 points per game.

What you will find is a collection of tight-knit, like-minded individuals with an extremely close bond, all banding together to achieve a common goal. And although the Knights do have some great players — namely junior guard Kendall Berger and senior forward Lauren Palangio — their biggest strengths lie in their unselfish nature and their overall cohesiveness as a unit.

Put it all together, and you have the makings of a WPIAL Class 6A champion.

“It’s the perfect recipe,” said Norwin coach Brian Brozeski, now in his 14th year at the helm. “You can’t make an apple pie and just put apples in it. You need the apples, you need the flour, you need the eggs, you need the sugar — you need a little bit of everything.

“If you look across this [lineup], these are all the different ingredients.”

After a string of heartbreaking playoff defeats in recent years — including a WPIAL semifinal loss to North Allegheny that has lingered in their minds since last season — the top-seeded Knights (21-3) erased several years’ worth of painful memories Friday night at Pitt’s Petersen Events Center, dethroning the No. 3 Tigers (22-3) to secure their first WPIAL title since 2016 with a convincing 56-41 win. It’s the third WPIAL title in program history for Norwin, which prevented the North Allegheny dynasty from claiming its sixth title in the past eight seasons. The win also improved the Knights’ flawless record against WPIAL competition to 19-0 on the season.

“It’s a testament to [Norwin’s] kids and their coaching staff,” North Allegheny coach Spencer Stefko said. “Brozeski doesn’t want me to sit up here and talk about how good he is, but he’s as good as anybody in [Class] 6A, if not better. … They’re a pain in the tail [to play against].”

North Allegheny’s Lydia Betz led the Tigers with 13 points in the WPIAL Class 6A championship game against Norwin, but the Knights came out on top, 56-41. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Norwin has accounted for all three of North Allegheny’s defeats so far this season, turning the tide in a rivalry that had been largely dominated by the Tigers since Stefko’s arrival as coach in 2016. The Knights won the first matchup on the road, 47-42, on Jan. 2, then rolled to an emotion-filled 64-44 home win on Jan. 25.

“I actually think that [semifinal loss last season] drove us in every game this year and every practice,” said senior point guard Bailey Snowberger. “I just remember the silence in the locker room when we heard them banging on the lockers, and the only thing I wanted to do was make them hear us banging on the lockers.

“I wanted it to be completely reversed.”

North Allegheny had no answer for Palangio in the low post, as the towering 6-2 senior posted a double-double with 12 points and 15 rebounds to go with five blocked shots. Sophomore Ava Christopher had a game to remember for Norwin, leading all scorers with 16 points along with seven rebounds. Berger rounded out a trio of double-digit scorers for the Knights with 10 points, while Lydia Betz led the Tigers with 13 points in the defeat.

“We knew we had to rebound. We knew that was what was going to win us the game,” Palangio said. “It definitely helps knowing how they play. … I know I have good shooters around the arc, and girls who are going to back-cut for me and get open. I trust my teammates, so if I don’t have my shot, I know they will.”

Norwin’s Lauren Palangio (33) tallied a double-double with 12 points and 15 rebounds and added five blocked shots in a 56-41 win against North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class 6A championship game. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Another key to the game was Norwin’s clutch foul shooting, as the Knights finished 16 of 18 from the line (88.9%) — a pleasant and completely unexpected surprise for Brozeski and his players when informed of the free-throw numbers after the game.

“We’re not used to seeing that at all,” Brozeski said with a laugh. “That’s something we’ve been trying to fix for a long time.”

North Allegheny started off strong, building a 12-7 first-quarter lead before Norwin battled back to tie the score going into the second quarter on a 3-pointer by Bella Furno. The Knights then seized control of the game with a fantastic display of ball movement, compiling a 14-0 run on their way to taking a 21-12 lead midway through the second.

Betz did her best to stop the Tigers’ bleeding with a pair of jumpers, but Norwin responded with a 3-pointer by Christopher and a layup by Furno to make it a double-digit lead going into the half, 28-18.

Norwin’s players celebrate their 56-41 win against North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class 6A championship on Friday, March 1, 2024, at Pitt’s Petersen Events Center. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

After scoring only four points in the first half, Berger began to come to life with back-to-back buckets to start the third quarter. A 3-pointer by Avery Brozeski stretched the Knights’ lead to 35-20 midway through the third, and they took a 43-30 advantage into the final quarter.

Palangio set the tone for the fourth quarter with a pair of big blocks early on, then Snowberger drained a corner 3 to extend the Knights’ lead to 16. North Allegheny continued to send Norwin to the foul line in a last-gasp effort to rally back into the game, but the Knights calmly drained their free throws to seal the 56-41 victory.

“For us to succeed, it’s just us being ourselves. Don’t try to do more and don’t try to do less,” Brozeski said. “You’ve got to give the girls a lot of credit for just going out there and battling. … That makes it special. That’s what a team does.

“It takes everybody to get this [gold medal] around our necks.”

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at srotstein@unionprogress.com.

Steve Rotstein

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at srotstein@unionprogress.com.