Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Team of the Week for Jan. 24, 2022

Monday, January 24, 2022 | 11:40 PM

Jeff Ackermann knows a thing or two about winning basketball.

He led Moon to three straight WPIAL boys basketball championships from 2004-2006.

He then took over the Pine-Richland program and led the Rams to back-to-back district gold in 2016-2017.

Now he is in his second season at Baldwin.

After the Highlanders won only one game in the 2020 season, Ackerman helped them improve to 6-13 last season.

Now, Baldwin has won four straight and is in a four-way tie for first place in Section 2-6A with an overall record of 9-5.

“We have handled a lot of adversity so far this year,” Ackermann said. “I think we continue to get better. I think we have a lot of guys that can play a lot better, so we have not peaked yet. We have a lot further to go. Our section is super tough and deep. You have to be ready to play every night.”

The winning streak and climb up the section ladder began two weeks ago for the Highlanders after dropping their first two section games to traditional powers Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon.

“After our Lebo game, we took the stance that our Canon-Mac game was our chance to get back into the playoff race,” Ackermann said. “We said our backs are up against the wall now starting out 0-2. We were losing most of that (Canon-McMillan) game, but we played a great fourth quarter and found a way to win.”

The winning continued last week. It started with a big section showdown at Bethel Park.

“Our BP win was a complete team effort,” Ackermann said. “I was really proud of the way my team played. Clearly James Wesling was in a zone. Any time a player can score 48 points, it’s a special evening.

“That win was not just James. We had so many guys that played well that night. From Nate Richards to Joey Carr to Nate Wesling to AJ Cherico to Owen Hutchinson and Connor Gitzen, they played great. We were very locked in and my guys played very hard.”

The 86-66 victory lifted Baldwin into a tie with Bethel Park, Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon at the midway point of section play.

Baldwin returned home Friday and the success followed. The Highlanders picked up win No. 9, their most in four years, when they beat Seneca Valley, 61-54.

“Friday night against Seneca Valley was a great night for us,” Ackermann said. “Seneca was a very tough, hard-nosed team. I really liked how my guys responded. I love how the Baldwin-Whitehall community is starting to follow us. Our student section was amazing.”

Junior James Wesling once again led Baldwin with 17 points. Ackermann loves how his second team all-section guard continues to improve, highlighted by Tuesday’s monster performance.

“Our hope was he could reach another level,” Ackermann said. “He has definitely done that this year. I’ve been a head coach for over 20 years. I’ve been blessed with a lot of great players at Moon and Pine-Richland. I have never had anyone score 48 points before for me. We preach balance, but James was just in a zone that night. He just was so focused and wanted to attack and attack.”

Baldwin has not won a playoff game since 2003. However, there is a lot of work to be done in the second half of the season before the Highlanders can think about the postseason.

It begins with a tough week ahead with a nonsection home game against Chartiers Valley before a visit to defending champion Upper St. Clair on Friday.

“This week coming up is huge for us,” Ackermann said. “We play a very solid CV team and then travel to USC for a chance to be in first place in our section. Both games will be extremely challenging for us. Hopefully we are up for the task. Baldwin hasn’t won a boys basketball section championship since 1986. It’s something we know about and we talk about. It’s definitely a goal of ours.”

2022 Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Teams of the Week

Week 4 – Penn Hills Indians

Week 3 – Carlynton Cougars

Week 2 – North Hills Indians

Week 1 – Cornell Raiders


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