Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Head of the Class: Player, coach of the year in all 6 classifications

Monday, April 1, 2024 | 6:01 AM

Class 6A

Player of the Year: Tyler Robbins, Upper St. Clair

While Upper St. Clair senior guards Christian Ito and Brett Meinert seemed to take turns playing the hero in the postseason with big efforts late in games, it was 6-foot-9 junior Tyler Robbins who was a consistent force for the Panthers on both ends of the floor. For the season, Robbins scored 382 points (13.6 ppg) and had 318 rebounds (11.3 rpg) and 155 blocks (5.5 bpg). He capped his big season with a huge performance in the WPIAL 6A title game with 22 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks in a 64-41 win over Baldwin.

Coach of the Year: Danny Holzer, Upper St. Clair

After a WPIAL semifinals loss and a PIAA first-round exit in 2023, Upper St. Clair began its quest for title No. 4 in 2024 with only two seniors. While lacking in experience, the Panthers had size and strong guard play. USC fell one game short of another section title, finishing second to Mt. Lebanon, but the No. 3 seed Panthers came back to beat Butler, ousted defending champion Central Catholic in the district semifinals, then won the rubber game of their three-game set against Baldwin in the WPIAL title game, 64-41. Holzer guided USC to a pair of state playoff wins over Central Dauphin and State College before falling to eventual PIAA champion Central York in the state quarterfinals.

Class 5A

Player of the Year: Elijah Guillory, Moon

The rocket man of the WPIAL was senior Elijah Guillory, who helped shoot Moon into the championship circle in 2024. Guillory led Moon with 21.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.8 steals per game. In the WPIAL 5A championship game, Franklin Regional kept Guillory in check as he was held to 11 points, six rebounds and four assists in the Tigers’ 53-48 win. However, it was in the district semifinals that Guillory was dominant, scoring 39 points in the Tigers’ wild win over Thomas Jefferson, 67-65. The senior will be playing his college basketball at Youngstown State.

Coach of the Year: Jesse Reed, Franklin Regional

What a difference a year made. Last winter, Franklin Regional second-year coach Jesse Reed led the Panthers to a 5-0 start and a 9-3 record after their first dozen games. However, key injuries derailed their season and Franklin Regional lost its final 10 games and missed the 5Aplayoffs. This year, the Panthers duplicated their 5-0 start and finished the regular season at 20-2. Franklin Regional reached the WPIAL finals but lost a heartbreaker to Moon, 53-48. Revenge belonged to the Panthers, who knocked off the Tigers in the state semifinals before losing to perennial 5A power Imhotep Charter in the state title game, 59-48, giving the Panthers plenty of silver linings on an outstanding season.

Class 4A

Players of the Year: Brandin Cummings and Meleek Thomas, Lincoln Park

For the second straight year, the dynamic duo of the district was unstoppable as Lincoln Park repeated as WPIAL and PIAA Class 4A champions. Brandin Cummings averaged 23.8 points this season, while Meleek Thomas averaged 22.7 points and 10.4 rebounds. In the district playoffs, the two combined for 53, 52, 46 and 37 points, while the state playoffs were even more impressive, as Cummings and Thomas scored a combined 52, 56, 45, 47 and 53 points in five victories. Cummings was extremely impressive in the PIAA postseason, scoring 28, 32, 23, 29 and 37 points. The senior is headed to play his college basketball at Pitt while the junior Thomas is already being flooded by Division I offers.

Coach of the Year: Mike Bariski, Lincoln Park

Once again this season, Lincoln Park’s athletic director challenged the boys basketball coach with a tough nonsection schedule that included trips to Erie and Salem, Ore. Fortunately, the head coach likes the AD since they are, in fact, the same person. Mike Bariski led the Leopards to an incredible encore performance from a dream 2023 campaign. For the second straight year, the Leopards were undefeated in Section 2-4A, won the school’s seventh WPIAL championship and then with a 30-point win in Hershey to seal the deal, Lincoln Park captured its second straight PIAA championship and fourth in Bariski’s 15 years as head coach. The team will enter next season riding a 20-game winning streak.

Class 3A

Player of the Year: Joseph Roth, Ellwood City

One of the most amazing athletic careers in WPIAL history is now in the books as Joseph Roth added another amazing chapter of dominating two sports during the same sports season … again. A record-breaking swimmer at Riverside, which co-ops with Ellwood City, Roth also dominated on the hardwood for the Wolverines. The 6-5 senior averaged 25.2 points, 14.6 rebounds 6.1 assists, 2.9 blocks and 2.1 steals. He eclipsed the 2,000-point mark for his career in an overtime loss to Deer Lakes in the WPIAL quarterfinals. He walks away from the basketball court for good and will attend Ohio State next year as a swimmer.

Coach of the Year: Albie Fletcher, Deer Lakes

It is one thing to build a championship team, especially at a school that is not considered a traditional power. It’s another to build a championship program. We are watching Albie Fletcher do that in front of our very eyes. After leading the Lancers to their first WPIAL championship last season and graduating several key players, many felt Deer Lakes would drift back to the pack this season. Many people were wrong. Deer Lakes enjoyed winning streaks of six and nine games during the regular season as it won the Section 3-3A crown outright, then knocked off Sto-Rox, Ellwood City, Neshannock and Burrell to repeat as 3A district champions with two of those wins coming in overtime.

Class 2A

Player of the Year: Josh Pratt, Aliquippa

While most of his basketball teammates were winning WPIAL and PIAA championships on the football field in November and December, Josh Pratt waited patiently for them to join him on the hardwood while he used that extra time to sharpen his skills. It all paid off for the sophomore who brought a razor’s edge to his game and help lead Aliquippa to double gold in basketball as well. The sophomore averaged 17 points while putting up big numbers in the postseason, including 33 points in the WPIAL 2A final in a 37-point win over Greensburg Central Catholic, and 36 points in the PIAA state championship win over Holy Cross by 22 points.

Coach of the Year: Nick Lackovich, Aliquippa

In the fourth year of his second stint as coach of the Quips boys basketball team, Lackovich has led his team to four WPIAL championships, two state titles and two PIAA runner-up trophies in his combined seven years at Aliquippa. The Quips were quite defensive about their medals this year, holding opponents to 43 points per game. Aliquippa won the WPIAL 2A crown with a win over Greensburg Central Catholic by 37 points, then captured its first PIAA title since 2016. with a win over Holy Cross by 22 points

Class A

Players of the Year: Nate Brazil and R.J. Sledge, Imani Christian Academy

While several big names changed for Imani Christian after winning district and state Class A titles a year ago, two names returned and led the Saints back to the land of gold. Junior guard R.J. Sledge is used to this double-gold thing. He won district and state gold as a freshman at Bishop Canevin and has now done it twice for Imani Christian. Sledge scored 22 points in the state title win over Berlin-Brothersvalley. To get to the finals, the Saints rode the back of senior Brazil. He eclipsed 1,000 points in his career as he scored 48 points in Imani’s semifinals win over Bishop Carroll. He led the Saints with 17 points in the WPIAL title game and scored 18 in the state championship game.

Coach of the Year: Khayree Wilson, Imani Christian Academy

Wilson was an assistant coach last year and took over for Omar Foster. The style changed, but the results remained the same. Imani traveled to Philadelphia, Cleveland, South Carolina, York, Reynoldsburg, Ohio, and Florida before focusing on crushing their section and winning WPIAL and PIAA titles by an average margin of victory in the postseason of more than 26 points per game.

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