Trib HSSN boys basketball player of the week for Feb. 26, 2023

Sunday, February 26, 2023 | 9:43 PM

For four years, he has been the leader of the golden corral.

Now Rodney Gallagher has Laurel Highlands two wins away from a triple crown.

Gallagher enjoyed a strong start to his final WPIAL basketball postseason in leading the Mustangs into Monday’s Class 4A semifinals.

The 6-foot senior guard could be spoiled by all the attention he has received from his outstanding high school athletic career, but he is humble and puts as much energy into being great away from the athletic fields as he does on the gridiron and hardwood.

“My family did a great job raising me, especially my dad teaching me the right way and to respect people,” Gallagher said. “When it first started and I was getting my name out there, he taught me to keep my head on and if you respect (the game) the right way, you can get more out of it.”

With his hardwood partner and best friend Keondre DeShields not at 100%, Gallagher stood tall in leading Laurel Highlands past Freeport, 69-45, in the first round.

“I thought we did a great job that game,” Gallagher said. “We knew they were going to come in and play hard, and they wanted to upset us really bad at our place.”

Gallagher had a game-high 26 points as the Mustangs broke the game open in the third quarter by outscoring the Yellowjackets, 27-9.

“The leadership he showed when he knew that Keondre was hampered by an ankle injury was big,” Laurel Highlands coach Rick Hauger said. “In addition to the 26 points, he had 11 rebounds and seven assists.”

While Laurel Highlands cruised in the opening round, it had to scratch and claw its way to victory in the district quarterfinals Thursday against a familiar foe.

In the third meeting of the year between the two teams, Laurel Highlands edged Belle Vernon in overtime, 75-71.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game in the third time playing them,” Gallagher said. “They did a great job playing the way they did throughout that whole game. We did a great job in the fourth quarter and overtime to play the way we’ve played all year. We were fortunate to come out with that win.”

The dynamic duo of Gallagher and Deshields combined for 62 of the Mustangs’ 75 points with DeShields scoring 31 and Gallagher 29 points.

As he is known to do, Gallagher hit a key shot with six seconds left in regulation that sent the game into overtime.

“He is a tremendous example of stepping up when needed,” Hauger said. “He had a subpar game for him going into the fourth quarter, but scored 22 points in the fourth and overtime.”

Gallagher rising to success in clutch moments late in games is part of his legacy. Does he get nervous in those moments?

“The only time I get butterflies, even in football, is right before we start as we are getting ready for kickoff or the tip. Once that happens, the butterflies go away, and I’m fine the rest of the game.”

While Gallagher has been big man on campus at Laurel Highlands since his sensational freshman season, Hauger said he has seen the improvements in the West Virginia football recruit on the court and off.

“His biggest improvement has been his 3-point shooting, which has improved to 41.2%,” he said. “Also, the respect that the other players on the team have for him, and his ability and willingness to interact with all of his teammates is special.”

Laurel Highlands will now face No. 6-seeded North Catholic in the 4A semifinals Monday.

“They are a fundamentally sound and talented team,” Hauger said. “We certainly face a tremendous challenge.”

With football his focus at the next level, a great high school basketball career is winding down. Gallagher is thankful for all of it.

“I’m just trying to take every single moment in, every single practice in spending time with my coaches and teammates, taking in everything throughout the games,” he said. “It’s been a great ride and I’ve had so much fun over the years. I just want to finish on a great note.”

2022 Trib HSSN Players of the Week

Week 7 – Dunny Rowe, McKeesport

Week 6 – Shea Champine, Bishop Canevin

Week 5 – Vinnie Cugini, Aquinas Academy

Week 4 – Makahi Valentine, Steel Valley

Week 3 – Royce Parham, North Hills

Week 2 – Jaydis Kennedy, Geibel Catholic

Week 1 – Joe Roth, Ellwood City


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