Knoch uses size and strength to dominate Yough, sets up matchup with No. 2 Lincoln Park

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Monday, March 1, 2021 | 8:42 PM


Like all teams want to be doing, the Knoch boys basketball team is hitting its stride at the right time, and it showed during a dominant WPIAL Class 4A preliminary-round victory over Yough on Monday.

Led by 31 points from junior guard Ryan Lang, the No. 15 Knights (7-9) led No. 18 Yough (3-13) wire to wire on the way to a 75-43 victory, their first in the playoffs in two years.

“We talked about just getting out early and getting off to a good start,” first-year Knoch coach Alan Bauman said. “The guys are playing with a lot of confidence, and I attribute that to the fact that we are growing because we are finally able to practice.”

Bauman said the Knights were getting only two practices a week at times this season because of shutdowns, and that took a toll. From Jan. 29 to Feb. 8, the Knights lost four straight games including a 31-point loss to section foe Deer Lakes. But over the past few weeks, the Knights have gotten back in the gym, and the results showed.

Senior forward Zach McMillen scored the first four points of the game, and Lang scored 12 first-quarter points to build a 23-11 lead for Knoch.

Lang finished the first half with 18 points and was aggressive going to the hoop. But he got his team involved, too.

“I was trying to just drive and create for others,” Lang said. “But if I had my shot, I was taking them. I was just trying to get us in a good flow.”

The Knights led 40-22 at halftime and never looked back.

While Lang was a difference-maker, the Knights’ size also was a factor.

The combination of McMillen, who finished the game with 14 points, and 6-foot-5 senior forward Cole Green gave Knoch a sizable advantage on the boards.

“Size, strength, and No. 20 (Lang) is pretty good,” Yough coach Jim Nesser said about the difference in the game. “We’re inexperienced, and we haven’t won a lot of games. Tough place to play for the first playoff game on the road, so give them all the credit. They were prepared.”

After Yough freshman Terek Crosby hit a layup to cut the Knoch lead to 52-34, the Knights went on an 11-2 run to all but put the game away.

“They had a plan, and they stuck with their plan,” Nesser said. “They physically just beat us up, that’s all.”

Yough senior Gamal Marballie finished with 16 points, and Crosby led the Cougars with 19 points.

Junior guard Keagan Fraser scored 14 for the Knights.

“We knew everyone was going at the end of the year, so our goal was to be playing our best at the end of the year,” Bauman said. “I really do think we are playing our best basketball. Everyone is playing well.”

The Knights travel to No. 2 Lincoln Park (14-5) on Thursday for a 6 p.m. game.

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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