Highlands boys sharing spotlight, climbing WPIAL rankings

Thursday, January 2, 2020 | 6:37 PM

When Highlands takes the court, most eyes in the gym usually drift straight toward the play of forward Johnny Crise and point guard Luke Cochran.

Over the past few years, the pair of childhood best friends have helped Highlands (8-1, 1-0) jump into the upper echelon of WPIAL boys basketball.

Last year, they averaged 16.9 and 18.9 points per game respectively and had the Golden Rams on the verge of their first WPIAL championship appearance since 2015-16. They also have the ability to excite a crowd with showtime-type alley-oops and dunks.

Take this video from the CJ Betters Tournament this weekend for example.

The 2019-20 season has a different feel for the Golden Rams, though. Cochran (19.6 ppg, 7.1 apg, 5.7 rpg) and Crise (11.6 ppg, 11.3 rpg) are still putting up their numbers, but the rest of the team is starting to get in on the action as well.

Senior Korry Myers is averaging in double digits with 16 points per game. Four other players are also averaging at least five points per game.

The team-first mentality is allowing the Golden Rams to reach new heights.

“Everyone is getting a chance to share the spotlight now,” Myers said. “When everyone gets going and everyone is scoring, we can really be dangerous.”

Through the early part of the season, Myers emerging as a third scoring option for the Golden Rams might be the biggest takeaway. He averaged 11.3 points per game last year, but coach Tyler Stoczynski saw the 6-foot-1 shooting guard’s game reach a new level in the offseason.

“I think it comes from how much he was relied on during the spring and the summer to be the oldest guy as the other two seniors weren’t there, and he relished in that leadership role,” Stoczynski said. “He took a lot of ownership into becoming a better player, and he put the time in, and it’s showing on the court right now.”

Along with Myers, junior Antoine McDaniel and sophomore Carter Leri have given the Golden Rams a solid perimeter presence. Wahkeem Roman, a 6-4 junior, and Jimmy Kunst, a 6-2 freshman, have also provided a presence in the post as they average a combined 14.3 rebounds per game.

From the starting five to the players off the bench, the Golden Rams have been getting production from their entire rotation, and it’s allowing them to share the ball with ease and excitement.

“The biggest key for us right now has been the unselfishness,” Cochran said. “I think if we can keep that going through the rest of the regular season and towards the postseason, I feel like we have a good shot at accomplishing a lot of things.”

Through nine games, Highlands has produced the highest-scoring offense in WPIAL Class 4A at 74.7 points per game. The Golden Rams also have the fourth-highest scoring offense in all of the WPIAL, trailing only Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (79.8), Trinity (79.3), and Bethel Park (75.7).

In order to get that offense firing on all cylinders, though, Cochran believes the team has been working hard at both ends of the court.

“It’s really started on the defensive end for us,” Cochran said. “This year, we’ve been more active on that end, getting deflections and steals, and I think that’s really correlating to the offensive push were having because of the fast-break points and stuff like that.”

Midway through the season, the Golden Rams are leading the way as Trib HSSN’s No. 1 team in WPIAL Class 4A. They head to Freeport on Friday before playing in the Jamfest at Penn Hills on Saturday.

No matter who steps on the court opposite of them, the Golden Rams are just looking to improve for the stretch run.

“As long as we continue to play together and it doesn’t matter who scores, I think we can continue to be successful,” Stoczynski said. “We can continue to have a very fluid offense that continues to get easy and open looks.”

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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