Knoch shocks top-ranked Highlands in section showdown

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Tuesday, January 7, 2020 | 10:49 PM


Tuesday night’s meeting between WPIAL Class 4A No. 1 Highlands and No. 4 Knoch was one of the most anticipated matchups of the season, and it didn’t disappoint.

The teams went back and forth like two heavyweight contenders battling for a championship belt. One would throw a punch and the other would answer with one just as strong.

For part of the fourth quarter, it seemed as though the Golden Rams were on the verge of delivering the knockout blow. They erased a 12-point third-quarter deficit and scored 30 points in the final frame.

But thanks to a senior-laden roster and an inspired performance from sophomore Ryan Lang, the Knights were able to persevere and hold off the top-ranked Golden Rams, 74-69.

“I told our guys that they really kept their poise tonight,” Knoch coach Ron McNabb said. “Even though (Highlands) went on that run and we kind of just stopped rebounding there for a while, we weathered the storm. But with as many seniors as we have, we kind of expect that.”

Jared Schrecengost led the group of seniors with 23 points, including eight in the second half, but it was the sophomore Lang who led the way for the Knights. He scored 26 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, and hit four 3-pointers as the Knights earned the top spot in Section 1-4A with their victory.

“This feels great, all the practice that we put in, all the hard work, it’s insane,” Lang said. “Too many emotions right now.”

In the first three minutes of the game, the Knights jumped out to a quick 9-3 lead thanks to a pesky defensive effort and easy transition layups. But this game was full of runs, and an alley-oop from Luke Cochran to Johnny Crise at the one-minute mark of the first quarter capped off a 9-4 flurry to bring the Golden Rams back within one.

Thirty seconds into the second quarter, Highlands took its first lead of the game on a Cochran 3-pointer, but the Knights didn’t go away. They countered with a run of their own midway through the quarter and built a six-point lead heading into halftime while holding Highlands to just 30 first-half points.

“We just hunkered down and we just guarded them,” McNabb said. “I thought if we did a better job on the boards, they would’ve had a lot less points. But we just tried to stay in front of the ball and I think we did that pretty well tonight.”

Throughout the second half, the back-and-forth affair continued, but the Knights slowly started to pull away thanks to a stout defensive effort that limited Highlands to just nine points in the third quarter.

The Golden Rams came alive in the fourth quarter and forced their way back into the game. Cochran went 9 for 14 from the free throw line in the final frame, and Korry Myers came alive from behind the arc, making three 3-pointers. His final one came with just under two minutes to go, and it brought his team within one.

“I knew they were going to go on a run. I kept telling my coaches,” McNabb said. “They have a bunch of fighters over there, and they weren’t going to quit. They were just going to keep coming.”

Down the stretch, the Knights sealed the game from the free throw line, going 10 for 10 in the final quarter.

Both teams will be back in action on Friday as Knoch hosts Derry and Highlands hosts Mt. Pleasant.

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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