Penn Hills boys basketball ready to attack opponents with sharpened shooting skills

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Sunday, December 5, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Daemar Kelly doesn’t want to see the Penn Hills boys basketball team bring the ball across half-court, see a zone defense and be timid. The Indians’ 6-foot-5 junior guard plans to be a part of an offense that attacks on instinct.

Penn Hills learned its lesson when it was slowed down by zone defenses in a 48-41 WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinal playoff loss to Laurel Highlands.

“You have to know when to attack it and when to shift the ball from side to side,” Kelly said. “You have to be patient attacking the zone. Especially since we aren’t playing with a shot clock, you have to take your time in the half-court set to break down the zone.”

Being a team capable of handling any situation is the Indians’ goal when they open the season against defending WPIAL Class A champion Bishop Canevin on Dec. 10 on the road.

Being more efficient on offense was a major focus of the offseason. The seven players who regularly saw varsity time spent most of the offseason focusing on being shooters.

Penn Hills coach Chris Giles asked that to be the focus of the returning players during their exit meetings after last season. The Indians finished last season with a 13-5 record and won the section by finishing 6-0.

“We learned that we couldn’t shoot the ball, and teams were going to try and zone us,” Giles said. “We wanted to hone in on our fundamentals. We want to do things until they become instinctive, until it feels natural.”

Finding a way to become more dangerous on offense will be important as Penn Hills seeks ways to replace the inside presence of Wes Kropp, who is playing basketball at Allegheny College, and guard Eddie Daniels, who is now at the Community College of Beaver County.

The Indians will return plenty of players looking to help fill their roles, including 6-5 senior forward Jaden Dugger, 5-10 senior guard George Mitchell, 6-foot senior guard Tim Bottoms and 6-2 sophomore guard Julian Dugger.

Kelly, who played AAU basketball for Philadelphia-based Team Final in the offseason, believes this team will mesh together well.

“Playing AAU showed how important it is to have good relationships with teammates and coaches,” Kelly said. “You have to be able to uplift your teammates and be there for one another.”

The Indians once again will expect to be a stout defensive team. Penn Hills limited its opponents to an average of 47.2 points per game last season.

“I can’t even explain it,” Kelly said of Penn Hill’s defensive prowess. “It’s a pride thing when it comes to defense on our side.”

With the mix Penn Hills has returning, the Indians are expecting another strong season. Giles knows it will take an across the board improvement in various skills to keep the program moving forward.

“We worked on offensive issues and defensive issues,” Giles said. “We’re starting to see the results, and we’re going to get better as the season goes on.”

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