A-K Valley boys basketball notebook: No. 3 Highlands stacking up wins

Thursday, January 28, 2021 | 5:42 PM

One year after winning their first WPIAL championship since 1995, the victories keep coming for the Highlands boys basketball team.

The Golden Rams (6-0, 3-0) have won by small and large margins this winter, including three by one points — two of which came this week. Highlands’ other three wins came by 30-plus points, including two by 41.

After beating Kiski Area, 83-42, last Saturday, the Golden Rams beat Hampton (1-6, 1-5) and Trib HSSN Class 2A No. 2 Springdale (7-3, 2-1) by one point on back-to-back nights.

Highlands lost its top three scorers from last season. Sophomore guard Jimmy Kunst has been the main scorer this year, averaging 17 points coming into this week, but Highlands has showcased its depth, too.

Against Hampton, Kunst tweaked his ankle in the first quarter, and the Golden Rams had to erase a 17-9 first quarter deficit. They battled back over the next three quarters, and Antoine McDaniel and Carter Leri finished with 15 points apiece and Chandler Thimons scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

Without Kunst on Wednesday, Thimons scored 18, McDaniel scored 17 and Leri chipped in 10.

Joining the 1K Club

Senior point guard Jake Fello has led Apollo-Ridge much of the season, but classmate Klay Fitzroy took over Wednesday.

Against St. Joseph, Fitzroy scored a season-high 27 points and eclipsed 1,000 points for his career.

The 6-foot-4 forward averaged 20 points as a junior. He tallied 16 and 17 points, respectively, during Apollo-Ridge’s first two games.

Basket for basket

On Tuesday, the Spartans faced off with Aquinas Academy, and senior guard Andrew Sullivan battled it out with sophomore sensation Vinnie Cugini, who is one of the top scorers in the WPIAL. For the second time in a week, Cugini scored 50-plus points, finishing with 52.

Sullivan nearly matched him, though, scoring 39 points in a 85-72 victory. Zach Szep added 15 points, and Ryan Zale scored 12 in the win. It was the second time this season Sullivan had 30-plus points, as he totaled 32 against Leechburg on Jan. 19.

Moving up

Highlands and Fox Chapel jumped into Trib HSSN’s most recent rankings, which are based on games up to Jan. 23.

After their 5-2 start, Fox Chapel climbed to No. 3 in Class 6A and added to their win total with a 70-63 win over McKeesport on Wednesday. They jumped up the rankings after beating No. 1 Upper St. Clair, 72-70, on Jan. 22.

With four straight wins to start their season, including a win over then-No. 1 Mars, the Golden Rams are No. 3 in Class 5A.

Settling in

First-year coach Alan Bauman and Knoch are starting to settle in after taking on some of the best teams in the WPIAL to start the season. In three of their first four games, the Knights played then-Class 5A No. 1 Mars, Class 4A No. 2 North Catholic and defending WPIAL Class 6A champion Butler.

Since starting 1-3, Knoch has won three straight. It beat Freeport, Burrell, and Indiana in the past week-and-a-half. Junior Ryan Lang is leading the team in scoring with about 27 points per game.

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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