Diggs, McKeesport too much for Jeannette

By: HSSN Staff
Friday, December 7, 2018 | 9:03 PM

Jeannette boys basketball coach Adrian Batts said he didn’t know much about McKeesport or Deamontae Diggs before Friday’s season opener.

He sure does now.

Diggs, a 6-foot-7 forward junior, was a difficult matchup for Jeannette, and so were the Tigers. He scored 29 points and pulled down 12 rebounds to lead McKeesport, the No. 4 team in Class 5A, to a 66-47 victory in the Hempfield Tip-Off Tournament.

Diggs scored his team’s first eight points, including two 3-pointers, as the Tigers built a 22-13 lead after a quarter.

McKeesport (1-0) used an 11-2 run to end the first that snapped an 11-11 score. It was sparked by 3-pointers from Christian Moore and Wyatt. Moore finished with 11 points.

Diggs scored 18 in the first half as the Tigers took a 38-21 lead into halftime.

“We have to learn from this,” Batts said. “I didn’t think we competed hard enough at times.”

Jeannette, ranked third in Class 2A, played without senior forward Marcus Barnes, who was on a recruiting trip to William & Mary.

“We need to get more scoring from Seth (Howard) and Zach (Crutchman),” Batts said. “We won’t win many games when we get a total of three points from them.”

McKeesport’s pressure defense made it difficult for Jeannette to run its offense. The Jayhawks had 18 turnovers, 11 in the first half.

McKeesport first-year coach Kevin Kovach said he gave his team a B-minus grade for its effort. There were plenty of positives, but there’s still a lot to work on.

The Tigers free-throw shooting is a concern. They were only 10 for 24. They also had 17 turnovers.

This was Kovach’s first game as a high school head coach. He played for McKeesport in the 1990s.

“I got a little nervous during the national anthem,” Kovach said. “But then I calmed down. I liked our effort and how we able to run things.

“Deamontae had a great game, and it won’t be his last. We expect that from him.”

Diggs is getting looks from ACC teams as a wide receiver in football and some Division II basketball programs.

Kovach said the poor free-throw shooting could cost his team in future games.

“I did feel we shot the 3 well,” Kovach said. “I just felt we had more depth than Jeannette.”

Batts said he felt his team played well early but got out of rhythm and seemed to tire.

“We’ll get better,” Batts said. “This is a young team, and we need to find ourselves. We have to learn to defend better.”

Jeannette is replacing its top three scorers from last season. Tre Cunningham, Anthony Johnson and Robert Kennedy combined to score 49 points per game.

A.J. Sharp led the Jayhawks with 13 points, and Jackson Pruitt added 10, six in the first quarter.

Jeannette will get another good test Saturday against Belle Vernon, and McKeesport will face host Hempfield.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at [email protected] or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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