A-K Valley boys basketball notebook: Highlands boys send message

Thursday, January 21, 2021 | 8:49 PM

After losing their top three scorers from last season some might have counted Highlands out this season, but coach Tyler Stoczynski and the Golden Rams reloaded and have sent a message.

Despite the jump in classification, the Golden Rams aren’t going anywhere.

Last season, they were dependent on seniors Korry Myers, Johnny Crise and Luke Cochran. The trio combined for 46.7 points per game and the team averaged 70 points. So far this season, Highlands has turned in a balanced scoring effort.

Against Plum on Tuesday, Jimmy Kunst (14 points), Antoine McDaniel (11), and Carter Leri (10) led Highlands as it beat the Mustangs, 59-25. The Golden Rams ended up with eight players in the box score, seven scored in the first quarter.

Highlands isn’t just doing it on the offensive end. After the win over Plum, Stoczynski said he wants his team to consistently be the hardest-working team.

“I’m just proud of how hard they played again,” Stoczynski said after the game.

The Golden Rams didn’t allow the Mustangs to score in double-digits in any quarter, holding them to fewer than five points in the first and fourth quarter. That work ethic also showed up in a season-opening win at Mars.

At one point in the fourth quarter, the Golden Rams trailed the Fightin’ Planets by nine points. The winning run was highlighted by a late three-pointer from sophomore guard Jimmy Kunst.

Defensive groove

After struggling on the defensive end through their first four games, Fox Chapel seems to be catching on as of late. In three of those games, the Foxes allowed opponents to score 60 points or more. That happened once all of last season.

Coach Zach Skrinjar wanted to see improvement and, in the past two games, his players responded. They limited Norwin to 38 points in a Jan. 15 victory. Four days later, the Foxes held Central Catholic, which knocked them out of the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs last season, to 44 in a 10-point victory.

After six games, the Foxes are allowing 53.3 points per game.

Lighting it up

Leechburg and St. Joseph combined for 178 points Tuesday as the Blue Devils beat their Section 3-1A rival, 92-86. Leechburg senior Dylan Cook scored 36 points in the victory, and he nearly was matched by St. Joseph senior Andrew Sullivan, who scored 32 points.

Six other players scored in double figures, with St. Joseph’s Zach Szep finishing with 19 points.

Heating it up

Last season, Springdale’s Demitri Fritch was one of the top scorers in the WPIAL, averaging 23 points. This season, the 6-foot-4 senior guard only scored 20 points or more once through the Dynamos’ first three games, which came in a 75-54 loss to top-ranked Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

In Springdale’s past four games Fritch avereaged 27.5 points and scored a season-high 30 against Farrell on Wednesday in a 64-56 win.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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