Highlands gets back on track with blowout victory over former section rival Knoch

Wednesday, February 3, 2021 | 9:36 PM

Highlands suffered its first loss of the season Tuesday, but it didn’t take the Golden Rams long to get back into the win column.

They certainly were hungry for another victory.

Behind 23 points from sophomore guard Jimmy Kunst and 22 from sophomore forward Chandler Thimons, the Golden Rams (8-1, 4-1) dominated former section rival Knoch, 92-66, on Wednesday.

“It felt really good, and we knew we had to come out strong because we didn’t take that loss lightly,” Kunst said. “So we wanted to come out today and bring back the energy that we’ve been lacking the last few games.”

WPIAL Class 5A No. 3 Highlands lost to Shaler, 71-67, on Tuesday night at home, but it didn’t have much time to talk about it. The Golden Rams quickly regrouped for their nonsection matchup.

Highlands and Knoch (4-5, 3-2) split the Section 1-4A crown the past two seasons, and although they are in different conferences this year, the familiar foes faced an intense atmosphere.

“They are a good team, and Mr. (Ryan) Lang is a great player, and we did a good job containing him tonight because we’ve seen what he’s been doing to other teams so far this year,” Highlands coach Tyler Stoczynski said. “So credit to our guys for communicating and making it hard on him.”

Lang finished with a team-high 26 points, but the Knights never quite found themselves in the game.

The Golden Rams jumped out to a 12-4 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. Thimons scored 14 of his 22 points in the first quarter as the Golden Rams built a 22-8 lead.

“I think Chandler was disappointed with what he did the night before, and we had talked today, and he didn’t want to make that same mistake again,” Stoczynski said. “That’s part of the learning curve of him being a sophomore and him starting to understand that he’s gotta be an aggressive force for us every game.”

The Knights started the second quarter on an 8-0 run and cut Highlands’ lead to four, but Kunst ended the run by hitting two of three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt.

Kunst scored 13 of his 23 points in the second quarter.

“My teammates were just finding me with the ball, and I was just knocking down open shots,” Kunst said. “I was just finding the openings. But we were moving the ball really well and finding the openings, so I think that’s what broke it open.”

The third quarter was entertaining as the Golden Rams scored 31 points. The Knights responded with 26 as both teams got hot from deep.

By the end of the third, Highlands had the game in hand though and closed it out in typical fashion.

“This was a game where the ball was moving offensively,” Stoczynski said. “We weren’t over-dribbling like we have the past couple games, and guys have bought in to what we are teaching. It’s great because when everyone is sharing the ball, basketball becomes more fun and the trust they showed in each other is great.

Senior Antoine McDaniel finished with 16 points for Highlands, which has 10 players score.

Keegan Fraser finished with 10 points for Knoch.

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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