Penn Hills second to none in WPIAL finals victory over Peters Township

Thursday, March 2, 2023 | 10:41 PM

Penn Hills is underrated no more.

Indians coach Chris Giles always insisted his team was OK with the No. 2 seed it received from the basketball committee, but there’s now no doubt who’s best in the WPIAL.

Noah Barren scored 22 points and Daemar Kelly had 21 as Penn Hills defeated No. 1 Peters Township, 70-65, Thursday night in the WPIAL Class 5A final at Petersen Events Center.

The No. 2 seed is now No. 1.

“I knew what I had in my locker room,” Giles said. “I knew what my guys were capable of. We never talked about it. I refused to talk about it. … It didn’t add any chip. ”

But they also didn’t believe anyone was better.

“Of course we thought we were the best team,” Giles said. “That’s why it didn’t bother me.”

The WPIAL title was the sixth for Penn Hills (21-3) and the first since 2018. It also was the first for Giles, who’s in his third season as coach. He can thank his two senior guards who shared the workload in the finals.

Barren had a strong first half with 16 points and then saw Kelly take over with 15 after halftime. Combined, they went 15 for 29 from the field and 13 for 14 from the foul line.

“Those are two really good players,” Peters Township coach Joe Urmann said. “We talked about that a little bit at halftime. Noah had a really good first half. We were thinking Daemar would try to make a push in the second half. He did.”

Kelly is a 6-foot-5 shooting guard committed to Quinnipiac. But his backcourt mate, the 6-foot Barren, has quietly become one of the WPIAL’s better point guards.

“I think our team is underrated as a whole,” Giles said. “There’s not much publicity going on about our team throughout the entire year.”

The No. 1 seed in Class 5A was one of the top debates before the playoff brackets were revealed about three weeks ago. Penn Hills had a strong resume, but the basketball committee chose to reward Peters Township, which had a 12-game winning streak at the time.

“It didn’t really matter,” Kelly said. “It didn’t even put a chip on our shoulders, because throughout the whole year, we had a chip on our shoulder.”

Penn Hills shot 54% from the field Thursday and had four scorers in double figures. Along with Barren and Kelly, Robert Thomas had 13 points and Julian Dugger added 10.

They also won the rebound battle, 32-23.

Brendan McCullough led Peters Township (22-4) with 19 points, Jack Dunbar had 15 and Nate Miller added 11.

Peters Township led 30-29 at halftime before Penn Hills opened the third quarter with eight straight points. Peters Township stayed close, but shot 44% from the field, went 6 for 22 from 3-point range and never reclaimed the lead.

Penn Hills has the stingiest defense in WPIAL Class 5A, allowing 44 points per game. Giles said his halftime message was clear: “Stop worrying so much about offense and play defense.”

Getting to the rim became a challenge for Peters Township, which was outscored 48-32 in the paint.

“They’re a good defensive team,” Urmann said. “They’re really active in the passing lanes. I thought they were able to disrupt us there.”

Penn Hills, clinging to a 58-54 lead with two minutes left, held on by making free throws down the stretch. They finished 20 for 23 from the foul line and made 15 of 17 attempts in the second half.

“This is what matters to me,” Giles said of the win. “We’re the last team in 5A.”

Watch an archived video stream broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at or via Twitter .

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