Highlands, Blackhawk in peak form heading into WPIAL Class 4A semifinals

Tuesday, February 25, 2020 | 5:40 PM

No. 1 Highlands and No. 5 Blackhawk have played through different types of seasons on their way to the WPIAL Class 4A boys basketball semifinals.

The Golden Rams (20-3) have only suffered a few hiccups — an early season loss to Penn Hills in their fourth game of the season, a defeat at the hands of section-rival Knoch in their first meeting of the season and a late-season slip-up during their regular season finale against Erie.

For the most part, it was smooth sailing for the Golden Rams, who are scoring 73 points per game, which is tied with Knoch for the most in WPIAL Class 4A.

“We are doing a pretty good job of staying grounded and not being too overzealous and not thinking any one game is more important than another,” Highlands coach Tyler Stoczynski said. “We are looking to have some great practices, and we have one game left because if we lose that game, it doesn’t matter anymore.”

Blackhawk, on the other hand, has been put through the wringer this season, putting together an overall record of 13-10 and capturing a share of the Section 2-4A title alongside Quaker Valley.

Although the season has been full of ups and downs, Cougars coach Brooks Roorback said he believes the teams they tested themselves against — such as Lincoln Park, Aliquippa, South Fayette, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and Beaver Falls — will help them down the stretch run.

“Every single night we were battling against a top program, a winning program or a playoff team,” Roorback said. “So we really thought that prepared us for our section schedule, and it definitely helped us with our last two playoff games, too. We aren’t intimidated by anybody. We’ve seen everything, so we’re ready to go.”

On Wednesday, the Cougars will face one of their toughest tests of the season as they take on Highlands at 8 p.m. at North Allegheny High School with a trip to The Pete on the line.

The Golden Rams are coming off an 80-56 quarterfinal victory over No. 9 Ringgold, and the Cougars just upset No. 3 Uniontown, 69-63 in overtime.

Both teams are starting to hit their groove at the right time. Highlands won 10 of its last 11 games, and four players scored in double-digits against Ringgold.

“Coming out of that game, we felt good with how we worked,” Crise said. “Everyone was worried about having that first bye week off, but we rested up and used it to our advantage.”

The Cougars have been playing just as well. They’ve won seven of their past eight, and Roorback said that his team is playing the best that it has all season long.

“We found different lineups that work. We’ve settled into our defensive and offensive systems and just got consistency out of guys” Roorback said. “We’ve just been playing really hard.”

Both teams believe the outcome will be decided by just a few different aspects of the game.

“We definitely need to just stick together,” Crise said. “We know there is stuff that we can’t control, so it’s just sticking together and having each other’s back, really.”

Roorback said: “I think to win, we just have to play really well. Unlike against Uniontown, where we didn’t play so well and we squeaked by and came back, this game we are going to have to play well in all facets of the game to 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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