Penn Hills enters 4-game ‘gauntlet’ run with lopsided win over McKeesport

By: HSSN Staff
Friday, January 11, 2019 | 11:41 PM

Penn Hills just entered a 10-day stretch that coach Dan DeRose calls the gauntlet.

His boys basketball team faces section rivals McKeesport and Woodland Hills, Class 6A contender Fox Chapel and Philadelphia power Chester, a seven-time state champion.

It’s a daunting four-game stretch for a team with five first-year starters.

“I told them, we’ll see what you’re made of,” DeRose said.

In their first gauntlet run, senior Tyree Spencer and sophomore Wes Kropp each scored 18 points Friday night as Penn Hills routed host McKeesport, 81-48, to stay unbeaten in Section 1-5A.

The Indians led 22-8 in the first quarter and held a 36-point lead after three.

“Knowing what they’re doing is not an issue, it’s just playing in these environments that’s my concern,” said DeRose, who lists seven sophomores on his 12-player roster. “They’re young, so I don’t know what to expect.”

Senior Marshall McArthur scored 13 points and sophomore Ed Daniels added 10 for fourth-ranked Penn Hills (10-2, 5-0).

Kropp also had 10 rebounds.

Up next is a home game Tuesday with third-ranked Woodland Hills (9-1, 5-0) for first place in the section.

“We’re both 5-0, we’re probably the two best teams in the section, maybe two of the better teams in 5A,” DeRose said. “You can’t ask for anything better.”

Penn Hills won the WPIAL Class 6A title last season but returned almost nobody from that championship lineup.

Spencer, a 21-point scorer this season, averaged around three points last year. The 6-foot-1 guard made 9 of 15 shots Friday and Kropp made 8 of his 13 as Penn Hills converted turnovers and transition chances into driving layups and short jumpers.

The Indians made 17 steals including six by Spencer.

This year’s lineup maybe isn’t his most talented, DeRose said, but recently they’re playing very well together.

“This is the quickest team I’ve had in four years and probably the hardest working,” he said, “but I don’t have a (Daivon) Stephens, (Sherron) Schifino, so they’re kind of doing it as a collective. It’s a nice little mix right now.”

As a team, Penn Hills shot 53.8 percent (35 of 75). The Indians led 40-21 at halftime without making a single 3-pointer and attempted only two first-half free throws.

McKeesport shot 33 percent (21 of 63).

“Penn Hills is just vastly superior to anybody we’ve seen this year,” said McKeesport’s Kevin Kovach, a first-year coach. “They run controlled chaos and it’s very impressive. It’s something that we would like to do eventually.”

Thomas Wyatt led McKeesport (6-7, 3-2) with 15 points and Deamontae Diggs added 10 points and 14 rebounds. Diggs set a team record Tuesday with 42 points but Penn Hills focused on him Friday.

Penn Hills at times deployed a triangle-and-two defense, shadowing both Diggs and Christian Moore, who had nine points.

“They got us out of our stuff,” Kovach said, “and that was the key to the game.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at [email protected] or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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