After seamless coaching change, Highlands boys basketball team has high expectations again

Sunday, November 28, 2021 | 7:43 PM

Of the nearly dozen coaching changes among Alle-Kiski Valley basketball schools, perhaps the final one was the most seamless transition.

The Highlands School District elevated former assistant Corey Dotchin to head boys coach shortly after nine-year coach Tyler Stoczynski resigned in October.

Dotchin was Stoczynski’s right-hand man as is ready for the task of keeping Highlands among the WPIAL’s elite basketball schools. The Golden Rams have averaged 17 wins over the past six seasons.

“The kids have been good, the administration’s been good and the new staff is getting acclimated, so everything’s going well,” Dotchin said.

Aiden Albert, formerly of Kiski Area, has come to Highlands while Christian Tanilli, who played for the Golden Rams several years ago is on board, along with Rich Macura, former sharpshooting guard at Freeport who teaches in the school district, will also be part of the staff.

Dotchin indicated Stoczynski will be around at times.

“All the basic things are staying the same, the offenses and the defenses” said junior guard Jimmy Kunst, about to begin his third season as a starter. “There are some new thoughts, but it’s been a pretty easy transition.”

The former coach left the cupboard well-stocked.

Said Dotchin: “Jimmy Kunst, Chandler Thimons and Carter Leri have played big roles for us the past couple years and will have bigger roles and leadership roles now. We also have Cam Reigard, Bradyn Foster and Jordyn Taverez who are sophomores now, and they got minutes as freshmen last year. They’ve improved nicely over last season.”

Landon Signorella, a 6-foot-3 junior and 6-7 senior Caliel Long will be coming off the bench to contribute.

“We’ll have some pretty good depth,” Dotchin said. “All in all, it depends on how good they want to be, that’s what it comes down to.”

Highlands is coming off a school-record four consecutive section titles with a combined record of 36-4 during that span. Oh, and don’t forget the 2020 WPIAL championship less than two weeks before the covid crisis shut everything down.

Highlands will open its 54th basketball season with a home tip-off off tournament on Dec. 10 against Mt. Pleasant. Deer Lakes and Moon will also be in the field.

The Golden Rams will begin defense of their Section 4-5A title on Dec. 20 at home against Hampton.

Highlands finished 9-1 in the section, including wins against long-time nemesis Mars. The season came to a shocking halt with a 76-56 loss against the 3-point shooting prowess of Trinity that left the Golden Rams with a 13-9 record.

Section foes again this year besides Mars and Hampton will be Armstrong, Indiana, Plum and Shaler.

Kunst, the leading scorer last season at 16.9 points per game, welcomes the high expectations.

“I think we had some high expectations for ourselves last year since winning so much the year before,” he said. “It’s nothing new. We expect big things from ourseleves.”

At a glance

Coach: Corey Dotchin

Last year’s frecord: 13-6 (9-1 in Section 4-5A)

Returning starters: Jimmy Kunst (6-3 Jr. G), Carter Leri (5-10, Sr. G), Chandler Thimons (6-4 Jr. F)

Top newcomers: Cam Reigard (6-0 So. G), Bradyn Foster (6-8 so. F), Landan Signorella (6-3 Jr. F), Jordyn Tavarez (6-1 so), Caliel Long (6-7 sr.)


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