2022 Trib HSSN Head of the Class: WPIAL boys basketball’s best in each classification

Tuesday, April 5, 2022 | 10:46 PM

There were a lot of players and coaches who put in plenty of time on the basketball court this season to be the best they could be.

While we salute all of those who participated in a memorable 2022 high school boys basketball campaign, we have a special seat in the front of the classroom for those who were a cut above.

The following six players and coaches will fill those seats after being named the Trib HSSN Head of the Class for the 2021-22 season in each of the six classifications.

Class 6A

Player of the Year: Royce Parham, North Hills

Only a sophomore, the 6-foot-7 Parham was a big part of a dominating season for North Hills. Parham averaged 22 points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots for the Indians, who were undefeated until losing to Fox Chapel in the WPIAL 6A championship game. The 26-2 season was one of the best ever for the Indians. Parham has local interest from two colleges in Duquesne and Robert Morris at the midway point of his scholastic career.

Coach of the Year: Zach Skrinjar, Fox Chapel

Finally, Fox Chapel can shake the moniker of being the best regular season team in Class 6A. After years of great regular seasons and high seeds in the postseason, only to come up short in the district playoffs, the Foxes were flying high. Zach Skrinjar led Fox Chapel past the final four and into the WPIAL finals, where the Foxes upset top-seeded North Hills for the school’s first boys basketball crown since 1977. The team lost in the PIAA semifinals and finished 27-2.

Class 5A

Player of the Year: Mike Wells, New Castle

While WPIAL champion Laurel Highlands leaned heavily on the terrific trio of Rodney Gallagher, Keondre DeShields and Brandon Davis, WPIAL and PIAA runner-up New Castle was guilty of going to the Wells a lot this winter. Senior Mike Wells survived a punishing style of basketball with some incredible numbers, including 23.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. He was the model of consistency by scoring 25, 22, 23 and 23 points in the four Red Hurricanes district playoff games. He will play football at Youngstown State.

Coach of the Year: Rick Hauger, Laurel Highlands

Two years ago, Laurel Highlands shocked the district hoops world by coming from the No. 8 seed to win the school’s first WPIAL boys basketball championship in more than a half-century. This season, there were no upsets, no sneaking up on anybody as the Mustangs were the preseason No. 1 team in Class 5A. Rick Hauger kept the focus and the hunger, and when Rodney Gallagher nailed two free throws late in double OT of the WPIAL title game against New Castle, the Mustangs were once again galloping around the golden corral.

Class 4A

Player of the Year: Adou Thiero, Quaker Valley

When Adou Thiero was a freshman, he was a 5-11 point guard playing a big role on a veteran team that was about to reach the WPIAL Class 4A championship game for a third straight year. By the time his scholastic career ended, he was a 6-6 guard who was a basketball machine on the court. Whatever the Quakers needed him to do, he did. Thiero averaged 23.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.9 assists a game in leading the Quakers to a near perfect season with WPIAL gold and PIAA silver. Thiero was named the Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

Coach of the Year: Mike Mastroianni, Quaker Valley

There was no silver lining in 2022 for this veteran coach. After watching his Quaker Valley teams reach the WPIAL championship game three straight years in 2017, ‘18 and ‘19, only to lose each time to New Castle, Mastroianni and his team would not be denied the gold. Led by Trib HSSN Terrific 10 seniors Adou Thiero and Markus Frank, Quaker Valley beat Montour to win the district 4A title. QV then suffered its only loss in a 27-1 season in the PIAA 4A finals.

Class 3A

Player of the Year: Makhai Valentine, Steel Valley

Some of the top scorers in the WPIAL this past season were in Class 3A with Will Wagner of Charleroi and Mikey Smith of East Allegheny among them. However, the sweetheart of this classification is Makhai Valentine. The 6-2 junior averaged nearly 30 points per game in helping Steel Valley earn a playoff spot. In the postseason, Valentine scored 23 points as the Ironmen upset No. 4-seeded Seton LaSalle in the opening round. Steel Valley’s season ended in the quarterfinals in a two-point loss to South Allegheny after Valentine scored 26 points.

Coach of the Year: David Vadnais, Shady Side Academy

In David Vadnais’ first year as head coach at Shady Side Academy, the Bulldogs lost their first five games. The team turned things around and ended up with a 14-9 record in 2014. SSA has made the playoffs in each of Vadnais’ nine seasons and has won at least one postseason game in eight of the nine years. This year, the Bulldogs were a perfect 4-0, beating Avonworth in the WPIAL 3A finals for the first boys basketball WPIAL championship since 1999.

Class 2A

Players of the Year: Jake DiMichele, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart

Last year, DiMichele shared this front row seat with then-senior teammate Dante Spadafora. This winter, the honor and chair is all his. DiMichele capped off an amazing career at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart with a fourth straight WPIAL championship and a second straight PIAA title. DiMichele once again was one of the top scorers in the district, averaging over 30 points per game (31.9) for a second straight year. He ended up as the WPIAL’s second all-time scorer with 2,642.

Coach of the Year: Mike Rodriguez, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart

Las Vegas Raiders founder and late owner Al Davis had a mantra he expected his teams to live up to: “‘Just win baby.” Our Lady of the Sacred Heart coach Mike Rodriguez may or may not have adopted that motto for his Chargers, but he has certainly lived up to it. Rodriguez has just overseen two of the most successful back-to-back seasons in WPIAL basketball history. The count now stands at four straight district titles, two consecutive state crowns and a 68-game winning streak that is tied for the longest in state history and will continue over to the 2022-23 season.

Class A

Player of the Year: Matthew Stanley, Union

With his seat at the head of the class, perhaps Matthew Stanley has earned the big chair at the head of the Stanley dinner table. OK, that seat belongs to dad, aka head coach Mark Stanley, who once again enjoyed a successful season with three of his sons on the Scotties roster. Matthew Stanley averaged nearly 19 points a game in the regular season, but excelled in the postseason. The junior scored 24 and 36 points in the WPIAL quarterfinals and semifinals, then added another 68 points in the Scotties’ title game loss to Bishop Canevin and three state playoff games.

Coach of the Year: Gino Palmosina, Bishop Canevin

After hoisting gold again this season, the Bishop Canevin girls basketball program has now won six WPIAL championships in the last 10 years. Boys basketball coach Gino Palmosina seems heck bent on eventually evening the golden score. The Crusaders followed up their first ever district title from last year with double gold this season after repeating in the WPIAL and claiming a first state championship. In his four years at Bishop Canevin, Palmosina has three titles and a 75-24 overall record.

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