Alle-Kiski Valley notebook: Highlands, Knoch headed for showdown

By: HSSN Staff
Saturday, January 26, 2019 | 10:48 PM


Highlands and Knoch have WPIAL boys basketball playoff berths in hand, but their Section 1-4A championship remains up for grabs.

That could get determined Tuesday night when Highlands (11-4, 6-1) visits No. 5 Knoch (13-4, 7-0) in a rematch of Knoch’s 74-59 win Jan. 8.

“I think it’s going to be a very intense game,” Highlands junior Luke Cochran said after the Golden Rams’ 62-36 win Friday over Freeport. “I think Knoch caught us on a bad night, but they’re a good team. We can’t take them lightly, but we’re a good team, too, and we’re coming,”

Knoch came out firing in the first game against Highlands, hitting nine 3-pointers and getting a career-high 33 points from Scott Fraser on its way to a big road win.

“We came out on fire,” Knoch senior Julian Sanks said. “I think we were hungry. I think we were sick of the headlines saying Highlands, Highlands, Highlands. I think we showed them how we play, and our defense really showed that game.”

Now Highlands comes into the game as the underdog: The Golden Rams have won five straight since the loss, limiting opponents to 46.6 points per game.

“That was a tough game for us to lose, and I think people kind of fell off us,” Cochran said, “and we’re still coming.”

Sanks said Knoch will have to match Highlands’ intensity. The Knights had won 11 consecutive games, rallying from a nine-point deficit Friday to beat Yough, 57-48, before seeing their run end Saturday against Quaker Valley.

“It’s not going to be an easy game,” Sanks said. “It’ll be a dogfight. They have two really good players with (Johnny) Crise and Cochran, two really good scorers. I think if we slow them down, we should have a chance to get another win against them.”

Valley high

Valley girls basketball coach Ernie Sipolino believed his team was improving as the season progressed, and the Vikings proved it Thursday.

With a 48-45 Section 3-3A victory over South Allegheny, Valley (3-14, 1-9) snapped a 59-game losing streak that dated to the end of the 2013-14 season. The Vikings’ last section win came Feb. 3, 2014, against Knoch.

The 2013-14 season also represented the last time Valley won three games in a season, potentially another sign of progress. The Vikings will search for a two-game section winning streak Monday at East Allegheny.

Spartan chase

Grant is nearing a grand.

St. Joseph boys basketball player Grant Bendis needs just one more point to reach 1,000 for his career after the senior put up a team-high 18 in the Spartans’ 69-52 Section 3-A win Friday at Clairton.

The Spartans host nonsection opponent Saltsburg on Tuesday.

Dual match

The Leechburg Area School Board voted 7-0 on Wednesday to seek a wrestling co-op with Armstrong for students in grades 7-12.

School officials said a co-op originally was sought with Kiski Area, but that request was declined.

Armstrong asked Leechburg to vote on the measure first, and then it will take up the request.

The PIAA has to give the co-op final approval. If approved, it would mark Armstrong’s fourth wrestling co-op, joining Apollo-Ridge, Freeport and West Shamokin.

Opponent wanted

Plum is looking to fill a hole on its 2019 football schedule.

An updated WPIAL football alignment released this week left the Mustangs’ Class 5A Big East Conference with just seven teams after Albert Gallatin decided not to compete in the WPIAL this season. That leaves the remaining teams with an open spot on their schedule, which WPIAL executive director Tim O’Malley said could be filled with an non-WPIAL opponent.

Plum athletic director Josh Shoop said the school actively was looking for a new opponent but had not located one yet. The Mustangs beat Albert Gallatin, 45-7, in Week 6 last season.

Picking up the Jack

Kiski Area’s all-time leading receiver made his college decision this week as Jack Colecchi committed to play for Cal (Pa.).

Colecchi, a first-team all-conference wide receiver this season in the Class 5A Big East, led Kiski Area with 40 receptions for 692 yards and five touchdowns. He broke Joey Brungo’s record for receiving yards in the Cavaliers’ WPIAL first-round playoff loss to Gateway.

The 6-foot-2 Colecchi caught 73 passes for 1,424 yards and 11 touchdowns in his Kiski Area career.

Jolly good Bello

Shady Side Academy senior Alex Bellinotti received the latest in a string of football scholarship offers last week, with Wheeling Jesuit offering the Lower Burrell native.

Bellinotti, an all-conference middle linebacker, had 151 tackles, 12 sacks and seven forced fumbles for Shady Side Academy as a senior after spending his first three seasons at Burrell. He has more than a dozen offers, ranging from Division I to the Football Championship Subdivision level.

George Guido contributed. Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at [email protected] or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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