Penn Hills boys using balanced attack to contend for section title

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Sunday, January 24, 2021 | 8:01 AM


The Penn Hills boys basketball team knew going into the season it would need scoring balance to be successful. The Indians have showcased that facet of their game so far.

Penn Hills (3-1, 2-0) had a different leading scorer in its first four games of the season. Senior forward Wes Kropp leads the Indians in scoring with 13.5 points per game and has grabbed seven rebounds per game.

Kropp scored a season-high 19 points in a 72-39 win Jan. 17 at home against Nazareth Prep.

Last season, Kropp averaged 16.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks to earn a first-team all-section selection.

“We want a culture where everyone is a threat,” coach Chris Giles said. “On any given night, we can have a different leading scorer. That goes to the kids working in the offseason to get better with their skills.”

The win over Nazareth Prep was the third in a row for the Indians. The streak started with a 72-59 victory over Gateway in Section 3-5A action Jan. 12. Senior guard Eddie Daniels led four Indians in double-figures with 19 points.

Sophomore guard Daemar Kelly finished with 15 points, Kropp chipped in 13 points and junior forward Jaden Dugger scored 10 points.

The game against the Gators was the first game back for the Indians after a three-week hiatus because of the pandemic shutdown.

Two days later, the Indians traveled to Kiski Area and won a close section matchup against the Cavaliers, 62-58. Junior guard George Mitchell, who finished with 12 points in the win, hit three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, including one in the final minutes to give the Indians a two-point lead down the stretch.

“We’re getting contributions from multiple players in different parts of the game,” Giles said. “You can’t really lock in on one player right now. We have a lot of different players that are capable of making big time shots.”

Before the three-week break, the Indians lost 64-57 to Chartiers Valley on Dec. 11. Mitchell finished with a team-high 12 points, and Kropp (11) and Daniels (10) were the other double-digit scorers.

“Chartiers Valley shot the ball really well,” Giles said. “That’s a team that you’re going to see in the playoffs. We’re going to learn from that game and what we needed to improve on.”

Daniels is second on the team with 12 points per game and four rebounds per game. Senior guard Deondre Mitchell is averaging 11.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and three assists. Kelly is averaging 9.5 points and 5.5 rebounds to go along with 4.0 assists, 3.0 steals and a block per game.

With every team making the WPIAL playoffs this season because of the pandemic, the Indians will continue to utilize their remaining schedule as opportunities to improve in Giles’ system in his first year.

After a 54-37 victory over section foe Woodland Hills on Jan. 19, Penn Hills was set for nonsection matchups against Central Catholic and Mt. Lebanon.

“We have a tough schedule ahead of us,” Giles said. “We have to continue to get better every single day especially with our fundamentals. I’m huge on fundamentals. We need to come to practice and compete every single day.”

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