Penn Hills boys maintain high expectations under new head coach

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Sunday, November 29, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Even with a new voice leading the Penn Hills boys basketball program, the mission is still the same — win a WPIAL championship.

Chris Giles takes over for Dan DeRose as Penn Hills’ new boys basketball coach. Penn Hills hired Giles on June 29 after DeRose accepted the head coaching job at North Allegheny. The Indians finished with a 18-6 overall record and an 11-1 mark in section play in DeRose’s final season at Penn Hills.

The Indians return senior forward Wes Kropp (16.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.5 bpg), who was a first-team all-section selection last season.

Senior guard Eddie Daniels (12.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg) and sophomore guard Daemar Kelly (8.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg) earned second-team honors.

“Everybody is going to have to contribute,” Giles said. “We’re not going to primarily focus on one guy. The guys have done a great job during the offseason developing their skills and developing chemistry with themselves.”

DeRose finished with 100 wins in his five seasons with the Indians, including a WPIAL Class 6A title in 2018.

Giles, a West Mifflin graduate, was inducted into the Seton Hill Athletic Hall of Fame last year. He holds the men’s basketball team’s career records for points (1,864), field goals (711), free throws (432), assists (323) and steals (217).

After college, he joined a basketball tour in China for a month and a half, and later played eight months in Costa Rica. Giles was a former assistant coach at Woodland Hills and head coach at Propel Andrew Street.

“Penn Hills was always one of my dream schools. You always have athletes at Penn Hills. You always have kids who love the game and are passionate about it. A lot of the kids remind me of myself when I was 15 or 16 years old,” Giles said.

Along with the return of Kropp, Daniels and Kelly, the Indians return senior Deondre Mitchell (10.0 ppg).

Giles expects expanded roles for senior forwards Royce Hearn and Alain Tamo-Noche.

The Indians will look to replace the production lost from the graduation of guard Kyree Hairston-Mitchell (15.5 ppg, 6.5 apg and 4.8 rpg), who was a first-team all-section selection last season.

Kelly and Daniels will look to handle the ball more, and Kropp has expanded his game by developing an outside shot after being a back-to-the-basket player the last couple of seasons.

Last season, the Indians finished the regular season on a six-game winning streak before falling to eventual WPIAL champion Laurel Highlands in the quarterfinals. After qualifying for the state playoffs, the Indians lost to Obama Academy, 73-63, in the first round.

“We all believe we shouldn’t have gone out that way. We realized that we got to play every game like it’s our last. We got to play every team like they’re better than us,” Kropp said.

“We got to come out with our ‘A’ game. We all want to get this job done, especially with dealing with corona. It’s going to feel even better winning a championship compared to any other year. “

The Indians will be part of a newly formed Section 3-5A. which consists of three teams that qualified for the WPIAL playoffs last season — McKeesport, Franklin Regional and Gateway. The rest of the section includes Kiski Area, Woodland Hills and Latrobe.

Penn Hills will open the season against Lincoln Park in the Lincoln Park Tournament at Geneva College at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11.

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