Penn Hills boys should be hard to guard

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Thursday, November 28, 2019 | 1:01 PM


Penn Hills coach Dan DeRose believes he has his best offensive team since taking over as head coach in 2015.

If the Indians want to win another WPIAL title under DeRose, like they did in 2018, Penn Hills will need to figure it out on the defensive end of the floor.

Penn Hills, which went 20-5 overall with a 12-0 record in Section 1-5A action last season, will return two first-team all-section selections to the starting lineup but will look to replace the production lost from the graduation of leading scorer Tyree Spencer.

The Indians’ starting lineup will feature the return of senior guard Kyree Hairston-Mitchell and junior forward Wes Kropp. Junior Eddie Daniels will have an expanded role at point guard and junior Deondre Mitchell will slide into the starting five.

DeRose isn’t exactly sure who will claim the fifth starter’s spot as juniors Royce Hurns, Alain Tamo-Noche and freshman Daemar Kelly are all in the mix.

“We are young, but the junior class is a group I’ve worked with since eighth grade,” DeRose said. “There is a bunch of them and they are a reason why we had success last year. They came in ready to play as sophomores.

“I’m hoping the year under their belt will help. I’ve got some depth and some size, which we kind of lacked last year.”

The two players who don’t grab the fifth spot in the starting lineup will headline a bench that will include many familiar faces that could be found on the football field in the fall. DeRose welcomes Eddie McKissick, Dylan Bennett, Tony Grimes and Noel Roach to provide much needed depth this season.

DeRose will lean on Hairston-Mitchell to provide leadership since he is the only senior back from last year’s team. The Indians’ offense this year looks to be a balanced attack where opposing teams can’t gameplan to stop a specific player.

“When they used to study us, they had to focus on one or two on offense,” Mitchell-Hairston said. “But pretty much all of us can score, so they’re going to have to worry about all of us. It’s going to be hard to guard us.”

Through the offseason, DeRose has noticed the development of the offensive games of key starters such as Hairston-Mitchell and Kropp.

“They can put the ball through the basket all multiple ways,” DeRose said. “They all can shoot it pretty decently. This is going to be one of my best perimeter shooting teams. They all can get to the basket and finish.

“Before, most the guys were one-dimensional and could only score inside or just shoot it. These guys’ games are pretty well-rounded, which can make us special because of that.”

In previous seasons at Penn Hills, DeRose had a tough defender. The loss of Spencer won’t just be felt on the offensive side, but also on defense, where DeRose loves to pressure the ball.

“I’m missing that guy on the defensive side,” DeRose said. “I like to play pressure defense and wear people down. We’ve just got to get a little better at it.”

This season, DeRose has continued to schedule tough opponents as the nonsection schedule includes opponents such as Butler, Pine-Richland, Fox Chapel and Latrobe.

“I’m always going to challenge us,” DeRose said. “If we’re going to be an elite program, we need to play those teams early in the year to see where we are at.”

Penn Hills will open the season against Quaker Valley in the Midland Tournament on Dec. 6 at Geneva College.

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