Rodney Gallagher scores 29, Laurel Highlands tops rival Uniontown in 2OTs

Friday, February 10, 2023 | 11:28 PM

The scouting report on Rodney Gallagher says that if he gets enough late-game chances, he’ll usually make opponents pay.

Uniontown stopped his layup at the end of regulation and rejected his runner late in the first overtime Friday night, but Gallagher wasn’t done. The senior started the second OT with a go-ahead 3-pointer, the biggest of his game-high 29 points as No. 4 Laurel Highlands defeated No. 3 Uniontown, 75-69, in front of a sold-out crowd in the Red Raiders’ gym.

It was the second time this winter that these rivals needed two overtimes.

“We wanted that game really bad,” Gallagher said. “We came in as the underdog. There were a lot of people doubting us all over the place on social media. We knew we had to come in here and make a statement.”

The Fayette County neighbors finish tied atop the Section 3-4A standings, a fitting spot for two teams that proved so evenly matched this winter. Their game last month, which Uniontown won, also ended in two overtimes.

In this rematch, they were tied 55-55 after regulation and 62-62 after one overtime.

Gallagher didn’t have a great shooting night, going 8 for 25, but the Laurel Highlands star grabbed momentum with his 3-pointer just 17 seconds into the final OT.

Uniontown trailed the rest of the way.

“Rodney made some big shots,” Uniontown coach Rob Kezmarsky said. “Rodney is Rodney. I have nothing but respect for him.”

Keondre Deshields added 21 points for Laurel Highlands (19-2, 9-1) and went 5 for 6 from the foul line in the second overtime. Deshields hurt an ankle in the first quarter, causing his coach to wonder whether he could continue, but he played through the injury.

Gallagher played with a sore hip after taking a hard fall on a third-quarter foul.

“With Rodney and Keondre, you have two go-to guys,” Laurel Highland coach Rick Hauger said. “That stretches the defense a little bit. Both of them are not fazed by that pressure or whatever you want to call it. They want it.”

Uniontown (18-3, 9-1) had four scorers in double figures. Jamire Braxton led with 22 points, Calvin Winfrey had 13, Notorious Grooms had 12 and Bakari Wallace added 11.

The Red Raiders had a seven-point lead at half, but they started the third quarter with four turnovers in the first 90 seconds. Those mistakes helped Laurel Highlands open the second half with an 11-1 run.

Uniontown also was hindered by foul trouble. Winfrey had two fouls in the game’s first three minutes and played most of the fourth quarter with four fouls.

“We’re working on keeping our kids playing, because we are a really good man-to-man team,” Kezmarsky said. “But when you get two and three fouls on you, that changes how you play. … Last time we had four charges against (Laurel Highlands). But this time, Rodney did a good job controlling his body.”

Laurel Highlands drew the fouls but didn’t always convert them into points. Foul shooting was a struggle Friday for the Mustangs, who made only 16 of 29.

They missed nine of their first 15 tries, but Gallagher and Deshields were solid in overtime. Combined, they made 10 of 12 attempts in the two extra periods.

“Those rims were very bouncy,” Gallagher said.

Yet, in the second overtime, Laurel Highlands led 65-62 after Gallagher made his go-ahead 3-pointer. He’d made only 3 of 10 shots from beyond the arc in regulation, but was able to shake off those misses in overtime.

He also had a 3 in the first OT.

“I’m going to continue to shoot my shot,” he said. “I’m going to continue to shoot it the same way, because I know it’s going to drop sooner or later.”

Uniontown twice pulled within one point in the final minutes, first on a jumper by Braxton and later on a putback by Grooms. But a layup by Laurel Highlands’ Patrick Cavanaugh and one free throw apiece by Deshields and Gallagher stretched the Mustangs’ lead to 71-66 with 40 seconds left.

In the final 33 seconds, Gallagher and Deshields each made two more free throws as their lead reached eight points.

“It seems just like the first game, just this time we pulled away a little at the end,” Hauger said. “I thought our defense and rebounding was the key coming down the stretch.”

Neither team had a lead larger than nine. The largest was a 32-23 edge by Uniontown just before half on a jumper by Grooms. Yet Laurel Highlands led 46-45 after three quarters.

“Our kids deserve credit and Laurel Highlands’ kids deserve credit,” Kezmarsky said. “If you have to do an ideal thing to get you ready for the playoffs, you can’t pick a better game.”

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

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