Mars’ Carmody, Laurel Highlands’ Gallagher share spotlight in WPIAL 5A final

Friday, February 28, 2020 | 4:32 PM

One is a 290-pound senior signed to play football at Notre Dame. The other is a 150-pound freshman with Division I basketball offers.

Mars’ Michael Carmody and Laurel Highlands’ Rodney Gallagher are much different athletes, but they have this in common: Both stepped into the bright spotlight this season and carried their basketball teams to the WPIAL finals.

They’ll share the court at 9 p.m. Friday when No. 2 Mars (19-5) plays No. 7 Laurel Highlands (16-8) in the Class 5A championship at Petersen Events Center. Carmody, a 6-foot-6 forward, has averaged nearly 20 points and 20 rebounds for the Planets, who are seeking their third consecutive WPIAL title.

Carmody had 27 points and 22 rebounds in the semifinals.

But Gallagher has proven just as spectacular, leading Laurel Highlands to the finals for the first time since 1972. The 6-foot guard entered high school with as much hype as any WPIAL freshman in recent years. A star on the summer circuits, Gallagher once played on an AAU team with LeBron James’ son Bronny.

This winter, Gallagher averaged 23 points per game.

“(Laurel Highlands coach Rick Hauger) has turned the team over to him,” Mars coach Rob Carmody said. “He’s trusted him and that’s hard to do (with a freshman point guard). Rodney had all the accolades and all the talent, but you still have to trust that a freshman can lead your team.”

Laurel Highlands finished third in Section 1 this season, but at times showed flashes of greatness while also taking some puzzling losses. Yet, here in the WPIAL playoffs, the Mustangs found their stride with upset wins over No. 1 seed Penn Hills, 62-60, and No. 4 Thomas Jefferson, 44-42.

Gallagher can make the Mustangs competitive every night.

“No. 1, he wants to win,” Hauger said. “Believe me, he wants to win more than he’s worried about points or individual recognition. He wants to win … and he has intensity. He has another gear that a lot of kids don’t have. He has it.”

Gallagher, who’s still three years away from college, announced his first Division I basketball offers from Illinois and Rhode Island. In January, the multi-sport athlete received a D1 football offer from William & Mary.

“He’s so seasoned and so smart and so skilled,” Rob Carmody said. “It will be a great test for our guys.”

While Gallagher makes his first trip to the WPIAL finals, Michael Carmody will be there for the third year in a row. Each year, his role has grown. He averaged 8.4 points and 6.6 rebounds as a sophomore, a stat line that jumped to 14.7 and 16.2 last winter.

“As a sophomore, I don’t want to say he was a role player, because he was a starter and a big part of what we did,” Rob Carmody said, “but last year, his role was a little bigger.”

Now, Michael Carmody’s role matches the size of his frame. He averages 19.2 points and 19.6 rebounds.

“I don’t know (Rodney) personally but I know him as a player,” Michael Carmody said. “He’s very good. Shutting him down is probably going to be the key to the game.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at or via Twitter .

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