Highlands seniors ‘living up to hype’ in WPIAL playoffs

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Thursday, February 27, 2020 | 6:22 PM


In Highlands’ quarterfinal win Saturday against Ringgold, senior guard Korry Myers got hot from deep, making seven 3-pointers and scoring 25 points.

So, naturally, heading into its WPIAL Class 4A semifinal matchup Wednesday, fifth-seeded Blackhawk tried to take away Highlands’ perimeter shooting.

“I don’t think people realize how good of shooters guys like Korry Myers and Luke Cochran are,” Blackhawk coach Brooks Roorback said. “That was one of our main emphasis. We were okay with exchanging some (baskets) down low as long we stayed out foul trouble.”

Blackhawk executed its gameplan as the Golden Rams only made two 3-pointers. But, just like Highlands has done this season, it responded behind the play of Johnny Crise.

The 6-foot-6 senior forward, who plans to play football at Penn State next season as a preferred walk-on, scored 27 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead top-seeded Highlands (20-3) to a 53-45 win. It will be the second trip for Highlands to Pitt’s Petersen Events Center in five years.

“This is definitely a blessing, especially because of the time we’ve put in,” Cochran said. “We’re kind of living up to the hype that’s been around us, so it’s nice to make the appearance and have a good opportunity to do something special for the community.”

Highlands will play No. 6 Belle Vernon (19-6) at 1 p.m. Saturday in hopes of winning its first WPIAL title since 1995.

The Leopards ended No. 7 New Castle’s run for a fourth straight WPIAL championship Wednesday when they defeated the reigning champs, 56-46. Sophomore guard Devin Whitlock led Belle Vernon with 17 points.

Not only did the Golden Rams counter Blackhawk’s plan, they also survived seven first-half 3-pointers that helped the Cougars take a 29-28 lead. Highlands remained calm.

“When it comes down to it, you’re going to play good teams in the playoffs,” Highlands coach Tyler Stoczynski said. “Teams aren’t getting that far because they aren’t good. So, everyone is going to battle and everyone is going to give you their best shot. There are going to be ups and downs, and you gotta be able to weather storms and we did that last night.”

Highlands took over in the second half as Crise continued to dominate, scoring eight points in the third and five in the fourth. Highlands also increased its intensity on defense. The Golden Rams limited Blackhawk to nine points in the third and seven in the fourth.

“The main thing I told my guys was offense wasn’t going to win this game, it was all about the defense,” Crise said. “If we could stop them and they can’t score, our offense would click and we’d go from there.”

Over the past four years, Myers, Cochran and Crise, have dedicated their time and effort to bringing Highlands a WPIAL championship. Now, they have the opportunity.

“These are guys we have been playing with for a long time, and this is a brotherhood that’s been going on for centuries, it feels like,” Cochran said. “So it’s definitely something special just because these are the kids I grew up with, these are the kids I’ve been playing with. So to go, and hopefully finish on a good note is awesome.”

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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