Point guard Kyree Hairston-Mitchell leads Penn Hills into WPIAL title contention

Thursday, January 16, 2020 | 7:27 PM

After a rocky 5-2 start to the season, the Penn Hills boys basketball team put together a five-game winning streak. Senior point guard Kyree Hairston-Mitchell played a pivotal role in righting the ship through his consistent play.

Penn Hills (10-2, 6-0) suffered a disappointing 59-57 loss to Central Catholic on Dec. 23. Hairston-Mitchell, as the only senior getting regular minutes, made sure the team stuck together. In the five-game winning streak that followed the loss, the Indians won by double-digits.

“I’m trying to make sure I’m a great leader. At the beginning of the season, Coach was telling me I was going to have to lead this team,” Hairston-Mitchell said. “We wanted to make sure we came back even stronger. Over break, we were practicing every single day and we made sure we were staying close.”

In the first 12 games of the season, Hairston-Mitchell leads the team with 16.1 points per game and 5.9 assists per game.

Hairston-Mitchell has averaged a team-high 29.6 minutes per game as he averages 5.0 rebounds per game. Hairston-Mitchell is shooting 48.1% from the floor and a team-high 76.3% from the free throw line.

“He has really matured a lot from last year,” coach Dan DeRose said. “He has really embraced the leadership aspect. He has really taken the responsibility on making sure everybody is ready and prepared whether in practice or in games. He has given me the extra coach on the court.”

The Indians have three other players that average double-figures — junior forward Wes Kropp (14.8 ppg), junior guard Ed Daniels (12.8) and junior Deondre Mitchell (11.2).

Hairston-Mitchell, who first played basketball in fifth grade in a YMCA league, has become a player DeRose needs to have on the floor all the time, especially in crucial situations.

“He’s that valuable since he controls the game,” DeRose said. “Championship teams can’t win without a solid point guard. He can create the space so he can get us in our offense.”

There’s no better example of how valuable Hairston-Mitchell is to his team than when he asked for the ball in the fourth quarter of a 78-64 win over McKeesport in Section 1-5A action Jan. 10. Hairston-Mitchell, who finished with 19 points, went 9 of 10 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.

“He wants to be in the big moment and put in on his back,” DeRose said. “If we need a bucket, he’s a very confident player and doesn’t fear that challenge.”

Hairston-Mitchell recorded a double-double with 17 points and 10 assists in a 94-66 win against Aliquippa at Jamfest on Jan. 4.

Basketball wasn’t Hairston-Mitchell’s original love as he played football from age 4 until the ninth grade. However in the ninth grade, Hairston-Mitchell decided his love for the game of basketball was overpowering and decided to focus solely on the sport.

“I’m really trying to do anything possible to get us to a WPIAL championship and win it all,” Hairston-Mitchell said.

The Indians are second in Class 5A behind Trinity in offense as they average 72.5 points per game this season, and they are working to improve on the defensive end as they allow 58.3 points per game.


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