Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Team of the Week for Jan. 17, 2022

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Tuesday, January 18, 2022 | 12:30 AM


In 1987, Penn Hills captured its first WPIAL boys basketball championship with a 64-44 win over Central Catholic.

Thirty-five years and three more district crowns later, the Indians are starting to look like a team that might be in the hunt for one for the thumb.

In his second year as head coach, Chris Giles has Penn Hills tied for first place in Section 3-5A with a 10-1 overall record.

“I think that the way this group of kids has come together, considering it being a practically brand new line-up, this group of young men comes in each day wanting to compete,” Giles said.

Penn Hills’ rough schedule last week began Tuesday with a visit to first-place Gateway. The Indians were impressive in coming away with a 66-56 victory.

“With the way things have been the past two years, this was the first game that our guys have gotten to play in such an energetic atmosphere,” Giles said. “I thought that our guys came out and played hard, stayed together and stuck through the runs. Basketball is a game of runs, and our team stuck together. They trusted their fundamentals, they trusted the system, and they trusted the process.”

The Indians’ trust in the fundamentals paid off Friday when they played host to Kiski Area. Penn Hills cranked up the defense and held the Cavaliers to only 12 first-half points in a 52-42 victory.

“Kiski is a good team. They are well coached. They have given teams difficulties with their 2-3 zone,” Giles said. “So, for us, it was executing and understanding what we were trying to do to combat their length, physicality and aggressiveness.”

In both wins last week, the Indians were led by 6-foot4 junior guard Daemar Kelly. Kelly has been averaging 17 points per game this season but scored a combined 40 points in improve the Indians to 4-1 in section play.

“Daemar is one of the better players in the area,” Giles said. “He has really started to come into his own thus far into his junior season. Daemar has put in a tremendous amount of work over the last two offseasons with me, working on his game and developing his fundamentals. It is nice to see for the kid that he trusted me as a coach and believed in what I was saying, and it is showing results on the basketball court.

“The part that people miss is that Daemar is a really good passer. He had nine assists against Gateway and five against Kiski. He is not only scoring the ball but also a good passer and defender. He also averages two blocks per game and four steals. Daemar’s leadership isn’t just scoring; he is proving that he is an all-around player. He is one of the best guards in Western Pennsylvania.”

As impressive as Kelly’s resume has been this season, the Indians are far from being a one-trick pony.

“This isn’t just the Daemar Kelly show,” Giles said. “Jaden Dugger averages a double-double with 10.4 points per game and 10 rebounds per game. Noah Barren averages 10 points a game and 4.5 assists per game and is tough as nails on the defensive end. Both George Mitchell and Tim Bottoms have been shooting the ball extremely well throughout the season.

“Our sophomores, Julian Dugger and Robbie Thomas, are stepping into key roles, both scoring in double digits multiple games. This is truly a tribute to the whole team for our current success. These kids have bought in, are not selfish, and are playing for each other.”

Penn Hills is even in the loss column with Woodland Hills and Gateway in the section. The Indians will visit the Wolverines on Tuesday before a stiff challenge Friday when they battle one of the top teams in 6A, Central Catholic, in a nonsection contest.

“Just like every game, we look at it one game at a time,” Giles said. “We don’t overlook any team. Our schedule has been packed with really good teams and really good coaches. In the upcoming weeks, that tough schedule is going to continue. We must remain locked in and take it one game at a time, getting better every day.”

2022 Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Teams of the Week

Week 3 – Carlynton Cougars

Week 2 – North Hills Indians

Week 1 – Cornell Raiders

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