Trib HSSN boys basketball player of the week — Week ending Feb. 1, 2020

Monday, February 3, 2020 | 10:42 PM

Fifty-two years ago, Laurel Highlands won the WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA boys basketball championships.

Now, while this year’s team might not win it all, it has some impressive wins on its resume. The 1968 Mustangs were led by Wil Robinson and a strong supporting cast.

The 2020 Laurel Highlands team also has a standout player with a very good supporting cast, but this player is only a freshman.

Rodney Gallagher has received a lot of attention for his strong season that continued last week with two more Mustangs wins.

“He has the ability to drive the ball to the basket, or pull up for a jumper or pass the ball to the open man,” Laurel Highlands coach Rick Hauger said. “He is very unselfish and a very capable defender. The magnitude of the moment doesn’t faze him. He is a clutch performer.”

After a big win over Penn Hills on Jan. 24, the Mustangs kept it going with a 13-point home win over Gateway.

“Rodney’s all-around performance,” Hauger said of Gallagher’s strong game. “In addition to the 23 points, he was our second-leading rebounder with seven, led the team with five assists, committed only one turnover and played solid defense.”

The Mustangs picked up their third straight win 24 hours later. It didn’t help in their section, but it was an impressive victory against one of the top teams in Class 4A, rival Uniontown.

“He stepped up when the game was on the line in overtime,” Hauger said. “He scored eight of our 12 points in overtime, including 4 for 4 at the foul line and handled their defensive pressure very well.”

The Mustangs edged the Red Raiders, 62-54, to improve to 12-6 overall.

Watching Gallagher in action, the thing that stands out is he doesn’t look like a freshman. Hauger said his maturity on and off the floor have many people surprised he’s a ninth grader.

“For the accolades that have come his way at such a young age, he handles everything with maturity beyond his years,” Hauger said. “On the court, he is highly motivated, determined, plays through nagging injuries and is a team leader.”

Gallagher’s mental approach is something Hauger and his staff have watched improve as the season has progressed.

“From becoming more comfortable with our offensive and defensive strategies, understanding how to best attack opponent defenses and developing into a team leader, he is a very hard worker, so his all-around game continues to improve,” Hauger said.

Laurel Highlands is 6-4 in Section 1-5A, trailing Penn Hills and McKeesport. All three teams have clinched heading into the final week of section play.

“I hope we become a factor in the playoffs,” Hauger said. “At times, we have been inconsistent, especially with our defense and rebounding. But that has been trending in a positive manner over the past few weeks. We have made noticeable improvements in most facets of our game during this timeframe.”

Honorable mention

Michael Koroly, Trinity

The senior point guard had another terrific week as he has helped Trinity reach the brink of a playoff berth. The Hillers picked up two big section wins last week with Koroly scoring 34 points in an 11-point win at Moon, then scoring 21 points in a 20-point rout at Thomas Jefferson that leaves Trinity tied for third place with South Fayette.

Michael Wells, New Castle

After losing to Mars on Jan. 11, defending Class 4A champion New Castle was 7-5 and in the middle of the pack in rough and rugged Section 2. Well, here come the ‘Canes. Wells, a sophomore, had a big week with 23 points in a loss to Quaker Valley and 33 points in a victory at Beaver that clinched a playoff berth for the three-time champs.

Andrew Sullivan, St. Joseph

There is no playoff run in the immediate future for St. Joseph, but the team is playing for the future. Junior Andrew Sullivan is finishing the season with a strong stroke as he scored 28 points in a loss to front-running Imani Christian, then he poured in 35 points in the Spartans’ 10-point victory over Aquinas Academy, the team’s second win in three games.

Previous Trib HSSN Players of the Week:

Week 6 – Dylan Cook, Leechburg

Week 5 – Vinny Cugini, Aquinas Academy

Week 4 – Frank Stumpo, Keystone Oaks

Week 3 – Adou Thiero, Quaker Valley

Week 2 – Camden Polak, Steel Valley

Week 1 – Jake Hoffman, Mt. Lebanon

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