Highlands boys basketball coach Tyler Stoczynski reaches career win No. 100

Saturday, December 21, 2019 | 10:44 PM

In his eighth season as the coach of the Highlands boys basketball program, Tyler Stoczynski hit a milestone earlier this week.

With a big 76-49 victory over Class 5A No. 3 Shaler on Wednesday at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Stoczynski earned the 100th win of his young coaching career.

The Golden Rams are 6-1 after beating Yough, 86-30, on Friday at home. The team kicked off the night by surprising Stoczynski with a commemorative ball.

“It was something that I really didn’t realize until it was the day of,” Stoczynski said. “So I was very surprised and very grateful for the people that put on the ceremony and everything. It was really greatly appreciated.”

The Golden Rams kicked off the season by beating Armstrong and Gateway to win their tip-off tournament. Then, they defeated defending WPIAL Class A champion Nazareth Prep, 76-53. They suffered their first loss of the season when they traveled to New Castle to compete in The Clash at New Castle tournament. Class 5A No. 1 Penn Hills bested Highlands, 84-69, but the Golden Rams rebounded and have won their past three games.

The program has improved steadily throughout Stoczynski’s tenure. In his first season, the Golden Rams won only one game. The next year, the Golden Rams won nine, and the year after that, they won 13.

During that third year, the Golden Rams earned a WPIAL Class AAA playoff berth and upset No. 3-seeded West Mifflin. Stoczynski said their 77-76 victory was a turning point for the program.

“We had a lot of young, tough and talented guys, and they really carried out our gameplan for that night and they just battled,” Stoczynski said. “It was kind of that signature game for us to say that, ‘Hey, we might be OK here.’

“We really started looking forward to taking that group the next year. That’s when we kind of figured it out.”

The team took another step the next year, winning 23 games and making the only WPIAL championship appearance in the past eight years. They ended up losing to Beaver Falls, 56-45, in the championship but have sustained success since. The Golden Rams went 12-11 in 2016-17 and have won back-to-back section titles, including being on the verge of another WPIAL championship appearance last season.

Through all eight years of his time at Highlands, Stoczynski has had a valued friend by his side in assistant coach Corey Dotchin. The two played college basketball together at Gannon and have created a program they always envisioned.

“It’s been like a 50-50 thing with him,” Stoczynski said. “He’s been here since Day 1 with me, and he’s put just as much time in as me — maybe even more — especially with all of the amount of scouting and stat-ing he’s done. He’s been essential to the whole thing.

“When we talk about where our program is and where it has come from, it gives us a lot of pride that we’ve changed the culture from that first year when we were 1-21 to improving every year. We’ve got to this level where we want to sustain it, and that’s where we’re at right now.”

On top of earning his 100th career win, Stoczynski and the Golden Rams were named the new Trib HSSN WPIAL Class 4A No. 1 team Saturday.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .


More Basketball

Hampton basketball readies for rare coaching search
Hall of fame basketball coach Joe Lafko steps down at Hampton
Corey Dotchin steps down as Highlands boys basketball coach
PIAA taking bids to host basketball championships
Basketball coach Rob Niederberger, who lifted Shaler from last place to WPIAL contender, resigns