Trib HSSN boys basketball player of the week: Week ending Feb. 29, 2020

Sunday, March 1, 2020 | 7:53 PM

They have been one of the better WPIAL dynamic duos in recent history.

Today, you can call them the two-time WPIAL champions.

Sophomore Jake DiMichele and junior Dante Spadafora — who have stayed in the top 10 in scoring all season and average 29.4 and 23.3 points, respectively — helped Our Lady of the Sacred Heart defend its Class 2A crown.

“I don’t know if there is a better tandem. There may be,” Our Lady of the Sacred Heart coach Mike Rodriguez said. “I don’t want to compare. All I know is that we are blessed to have the opportunity to coach all of the wonderful young men on our team.

“After graduating some wonderful seniors last year, we knew we would be asking Jake and Dante to take on expanded roles … to do more for the team, and they certainly have.”

Last week, OLSH beat Winchester Thurston in the WPIAL semifinals Tuesday before defeating Sto-Rox in the title game.

As he has all season, DiMichele led the way, first scoring 36 points in a 54-point rout of the Bears.

“Against Winchester Thurston, Jake was getting open opportunities on the perimeter because it appeared they were trying to limit dribble penetration by Jake and Dante. Jake was getting open looks, and his teammates continued to look for him.”

The top-seed Chargers then headed to Petersen Events Center to face No. 2 Sto-Rox. After a 3-7 start, the Vikings had won 15 in a row.

“Many of Jake’s points against Sto-Rox in the championship game came from dribble penetration. They were playing a triangle-and-two on DiMichele and Spadafora, which created scoring opportunities for other players. In the second quarter, Dante was being double-teamed often bringing up the ball, so we stated running plays to get Jake more opportunities driving to the basket enabling him to get to the line often.”

Rodriquez said DiMichele is a gifted player with strengths in many aspects.

“Jake is an outstanding shooter and has really worked on his ball-handling and finishing. He effectively attacks the basket far more than he has in the past. It’s a part of his game that he continues to work on.”

A year ago after winning district gold, OLSH won three games by double-digit margins before falling to Bishop Guilfoyle in the PIAA Class 2A semifinals 62-61.

On Saturday, the Chargers will face Youngsville out of District 10 in a first-round state playoff game at Peters Township.

“We are truly excited for the journey ahead,” Rodriguez said. “Seeing new places, towns, schools and the camaraderie that comes with being on a journey is always fun. We will take it one game at a time as we always do. The focus is to have fun while on the journey.”

Honorable mention:

Devin Carney, Butler

Last week, Butler’s version of Batman, Ethan Morton, was our Player of the Week. This week, a salute goes out to Robin. Carney, a sophomore, scored 36 points in the Golden Tornado’s come-from-behind overtime thriller over Upper St. Clair in the semifinals, then scored 24 to lead Butler past Mt. Lebanon for the program’s first crown in 28 years.

Johnny Crise, Highlands

Highlands has a lot of size and talent, but in the semifinals and final, the Golden Rams turned to their big man to lead the way and live up to their school nickname. Crise scored 27 points in a semifinals win over Blackhawk, then led the team again Saturday with 23 points and 15 rebounds as Highlands beat Belle Vernon for the program’s first championship in 25 years.

Rodney Gallagher, Laurel Highlands

Youth has been served. Friday night, the Class 5A torch was passed from outgoing senior Michael Carmody of Mars, who played in four WPIAL championship games, to freshman Gallagher. Gallagher scored 23 points in a comeback win over Thomas Jefferson in the semis and followed up with 24 points, including the winning free throws with 4 seconds left, to lead the Mustangs to their first district crown in 52 years.

Previous Trib HSSN Players of the Week:

Week 10 – Ethan Morton, Butler

Week 9 – Colin McQuiston, Shenango

Week 8 – Riley Comforti, Southmoreland

Week 7 – Rodney Gallagher, Laurel Highlands

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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