Kropp lifts No. 2 Penn Hills to Class 5A quarterfinal win over Montour

Friday, February 22, 2019 | 11:37 PM

With the game up for grabs early in the second half, Penn Hills needed a lift.

The No. 2-seeded Indians got it when 6-foot-4 sophomore Wes Kropp scored five points in 11 seconds and nine for the third quarter.

Penn Hills then shot 11 of 11 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and defeated Montour, 62-50, in a Class 5A quarterfinal contest at Fox Chapel High School.

Tyree Spencer scored 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for Penn Hills.

The Indians (20-3), champions of Class 6A last season, are seeking the title in their new classification. Penn Hills will play Moon in the semifinal round Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.

“They were really trying to get physical with him and kind of push him around a lot,” Indians coach Dan Derose said of Kropp. “But Wes has been pretty consistent all year, and he came up big with a couple of follow-ups. We had to protect him a little in the first half because he picked up two quick fouls.”

With Penn Hills ahead 29-27 with a little more than three minutes gone in the second half, Kropp picked up two baskets and a foul shot to advance the Indians’ lead to 34-27.

Montour could get no closer than five points the rest of the way.

The victory also gave the Indians a berth in the PIAA playoffs, which begin on March 9.

The Spartans (15-9) were hampered by injuries to their big man, 6-4 junior forward James Eubanks, who landed awkwardly snaring a downcourt pass with 3:16 left in the first quarter, and 6-3 forward Justin Labrie.

Labrie returned to the floor in the second half, but Eubanks’ injury appears more serious.

If Penn Hills defeats Moon on Tuesday, Montour will qualify for the state playoffs.

“With James getting hurt, we had to rework our lineup on the fly,” Spartans coach Bill Minear said. “We had some foul trouble, too, with Justin and Alex Boyden. We had a freshman out on the court (Isayh Mosley) and a sophomore, Luke Persinger; they’ve both played a little bit.”

Penn Hills also had a strong second quarter, propelled by a 9-0 run. The Indians didn’t commit a second-quarter turnover until the 1:18 mark.

Spencer had a solid first half for Penn Hills with 15 points.

Minear had to mix-and-match his lineup in the fourth quarter with three players on the court with four personals.

Montour led in fouls called, 23-12.

“I find it hard to believe that in neither half we got in the one-and-one with how physical the game was,” Minear said. “And that’s the part that bothers me. I thought our effort was good, and we missed some opportunities to score.”

Spencer made all six foul shots in the fourth quarter, and Kyree Hairston-Mitchell was 4 of 4.

“You got put the ball in those guys’ hands,” Derose said. “Spencer and Mitchell are very good free throw shooters, and we wanted to make sure they had the ball at the end of the game.”

Kropp finished with 16 points and Hairston-Mitchell had 10. Alex Boyden led the Spartans with 11 points, and Anthony Tambellini added 10.

Jaden Nelson had eight rebounds for Montour.

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