Strong senior cast has Highlands boys basketball thinking big

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Sunday, November 24, 2019 | 5:30 PM


With eight minutes remaining in their WPIAL Class 4A semifinal matchup last season against New Castle, Highlands faced a 23-point deficit.

But the Golden Rams buckled down, battled back and cut New Castle’s lead to five points with 30 seconds remaining. Although the Red Hurricanes held off Highlands, the rally proved a few things.

“It’s one of those things we kind of carry in our back pocket,” senior guard Luke Cochran said. “A lot of teams I know, whenever you get down, it’s hard to come back. But as a program, we have built that tenacious, clawing back-type of mentality, and we will not stop until the whistle blows because there is always a chance no matter what the score says.”

Highlands hopes combining that mentality with a talented group of players carries them further this season.

After capturing a share of the Section 1-4A championship last season, the Golden Rams return senior starters Johnny Crise, Luke Cochran and Korry Myers.

Crise and Cochran have been staples the past few seasons. They grew up playing together, and their relationship has grown on and off the court.

“We just need to keep getting better,” Crise said. “Luke and I have been playing together since we were little, so we have that chemistry, and we have that passion for the game. This year, it’s our last year, so it’s all or nothing, and we’re just going to leave it out there.”

Last year, the pair helped the Golden Rams average 65.9 points, which was third-highest in Class 4A behind Uniontown (71.3) and New Castle (66.8). But Highlands coach Tyler Stoczynski is counting on all three of his seniors this season.

“Luke, Johnny and Korry Myers as our third senior, we are expecting big things out of them,” Stoczynski said. “We are expecting them to lead our team in several categories on the court and with leadership attributes off of it.”

Stoczysnki isn’t the only one expecting big things out of Myers, a 6-foot-1 guard who was a key contributor last season.

“He’s gonna step up a lot this year. I’m willing to say that wholeheartedly with my chest forward,” Cochran said. “I don’t think a lot of people are giving him any credit for what he does for this team.”

After a year of building a foundation with a young roster, the Golden Rams have the talent in place. Crise, Cochran and Myers provide a solid leadership cast while underclassmen such as Wahkeem Roman (6-foot-4, forward), Chandler Thimons (6-foot-3, guard), Jimmy Kunst (6-foot-2, guard) and Antoine McDaniel (6-foot-3, forward) provide a solid group of role players.

Now, the Golden Rams need to put all of it together to reach their ultimate goal: a WPIAL championship.

“We have some opportunities to gel quickly this preseason, but, at the same time, we have a lot to work on,” Stoczynski said. “Just from a consistency standpoint and a maturity standpoint, we have a long way to go. But that’s all a part of getting better throughout the season.”

The Golden Rams start their regular season with a matchup against Nazareth Prep on Dec. 11 at home.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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