Highlands ready to run in PIAA second-round matchup with Grove City

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Monday, March 9, 2020 | 6:58 PM


Throughout its playoff run, opponents have tried to throw Highlands off its game.

Whether that means slowing the game down to a laborious, drawn-out pace, or face guarding top shooters Korry Myers and Luke Cochran, the Golden Rams have seen it all since the end of February.

But no matter what has been thrown their way, the 2020 WPIAL Class 4A champions have found a way around it.

“We try to exploit anything we can, but we’ve shown that we can win in an array of ways,” Highlands coach Tyler Stoczynski said. “So we just try to give our guys the best opportunity to be successful any way we can.”

On Tuesday, when Highlands (23-3) plays District 10 runner-up Grove City (17-9) at 7:30 p.m. at North Allegheny, the Golden Rams will face a style a little more to their liking as the Eagles enjoy getting up and down the court just as much as Highlands.

“We are actually inclined to play up-tempo and we like the game with a high amount of scoring points,” second-year Grove City coach Chris Kwolek said.

Grove City, which finished as the District 10 runner-up for the second straight year, averaged 53.7 points per game this season and is led by 5-foot-10 senior guard Danny Timko, who is averaging 17.7 points per game.

Senior Kade Persinger is averaging 12.4 points, and the Eagles have two other players averaging eight points or more.

But as much as Grove City likes to display a fast-paced style of play, Kwolek said his team might have to change its game plan a little bit against a team like Highlands.

“This is a different beast,” Kwolek said. “From what we’ve seen on film and what we’ve been able to gather, there is no doubt they are a special team.”

Along with their athleticism, the Golden Rams will have the size advantage as well. Sophomores Josh Dreves and Anthony Pereria, who average 0.5 points combined, are the only two players on Grove City’s roster that are listed at 6-3 or taller.

What they lack in size though, Kwolek is hoping to make up for in physicality.

“We are going to have to understand that the physicality game is going to need to be brought because we know they (Highlands) are going to bring it,” Kwolek said. “If we don’t match it, it can be a very long evening and a very short season in the state tournament for us.”

No matter the style of play, or the physicality of their opponent, the Golden Rams have found a way to come out on the winning side over the past few weeks. Friday’s first-round contest against District 10 third-place finisher Harbor Creek was just another example.

They found themselves in a battle through three quarters before finally breaking out in the final eight minutes.

“Teams try to slow it down on us, but we usually find a way to speed it up,” Cochran said. “There have been plenty of teams that have tried to slow us down and as our record speaks, it hasn’t worked. So we’re just going to keep doing what we do.”

Pace of play aside, Stoczynski said his team must make sure it uses its size advantage in the paint.

“If we can control the rebounding margin and we can continue to do that, which we’ve been pretty successful at throughout the year, I think that’ll play a huge factor in it,” Stoczynski said. “Limiting them to one shot and that’s it. But we also have to take care of the ball. When we don’t turn the basketball over, we tend to create some good opportunity to ourselves.”

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

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