Led by Johnny Crise, Highlands is taking a turn after win over No. 1 Knoch

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Thursday, January 30, 2020 | 5:10 PM


Big-time players make big-time plays in big -time games, and earlier this week when No. 3 Highlands needed a player to step up, senior Johnny Crise answered the call.

The senior forward scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as the Golden Rams (17-2, 7-1) got revenge for one of their two losses when they upset No. 1 Knoch, 72-65, to knot up Section 1-4A.

Crise has had performances like Tuesday night’s in the past, but it the circumstances surrounding the game made his performance a special one. On a rare Sunday game against Taylor Allderdice, Crise went down with a knee injury that caused a hush to fall over the crowd at Montour’s PBC Hall of Fame Classic.

On Tuesday, the high-flying senior took to the court for warmups with his knee taped, took a few jump shots and then spent the rest of pregame getting treatment from the trainer. He didn’t take his warmup off until the starters took the court for the tip.

“We have a saying around here, ‘Johnny is Johnny,’ ” Highlands coach Tyler Stoczynski said. “He can be hurt one quarter and be ready to go the next. He’s such a competitor that you can never count him out.”

Some might have questioned whether Crise was going to play in one of Highlands’ biggest regular-season games. But there was never any doubt for the 6-foot-6 forward who is set to walk on at Penn State next season to play football.

“My team has always had my back when I was down or when I wasn’t having my best game,” Crise said. “So, for me to have a little setback, that doesn’t mean anything. I wanted to have my brothers’ backs just like they had mine.”

His performance wasn’t surprising to Stoczynski, either. It was something he’s seen before, and because of the type of leader and person Crise is, the eighth-year coach said he never had any doubt about one of his star seniors.

Crise also scored his 1,000th career point Tuesday. He only needed five, and the star senior standout scored Highlands’ first six points of the game as they jumped out to an early 8-0 lead.

While Crise led the way as his team gained redemption for it loss to Knoch earlier this year, he didn’t do it alone. Senior guard Korry Myers scored 23 points and was lethal from deep, hitting a few 3-pointers that either pushed Highlands further ahead or stymied a Knoch run.

Freshman Jimmy Kunst scored 11 points and had six steals, including two at the beginning of the third quarter that allowed the Golden Rams to tie the score 40-40.

Then there was senior guard Luke Cochran, who came into the game as Highlands’ leading scorer at 19.3 points per game. On Tuesday, Cochran only scored eight points, but he controlled the offense and the pace of the game.

Highlands played its game, with each person playing their own role, and it allowed Crise to excel.

“I think part of him looking phenomenal tonight was the fact that the rest of our team was executing our gameplan,” Stoczynski said. “We want to play inside-out, and I think that Luke did a good job of getting the ball into him, and that was a big piece.”

When Highlands played Knoch the first time around, it scored 39 points through three quarters. But the way the Golden Rams played Tuesday showed how far they’ve come since, and Stoczynski believes it allowed them to turn a corner.

“We took a ton away from that first loss,” Stoczynski said. “We watch film a lot, and that’s the only game this year that we’ve watched the entire film of because we had so much to learn from it.”

The Golden Rams will close their season with sectional matchups against Mt. Pleasant and Derry, then travel to Erie on Feb. 7 for their regular-season finale.

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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