Trib HSSN boys basketball team of the week for March 19, 2023

Sunday, March 19, 2023 | 9:24 PM

While Rodney Gallagher and the Laurel Highlands boys basketball team has brought the basketball spotlight back to Fayette County with two WPIAL championships in the last four years, they had to share center stage in the county and in Class 4A with Uniontown this season.

The Red Raiders are 23-5 this season, including 5-2 in the postseason and 3-0 in the PIAA playoffs after two more wins last week.

“People used to laugh at Fayette County,” Uniontown coach Rob Kezmarsky said. “Rodney Gallagher has been a great help putting Fayette County on the map, and our players along with our tradition just want to be part of it. It’s just amazing, our fan base at Uniontown right now.”

Uniontown fans have had a lot to cheer about, through blowouts and buzzer-beaters, which is what the Red Raiders experienced this past week.

On Tuesday against the No. 3 seed out of District 3, Uniontown used balance scoring to cruise past Littletown, 67-46.

“We’ve been like that all year,” Kezmarsky said. “Tori Gromms and Calvin Winfrey started as freshmen, and their averages have gone down, but our team is playing so much better. I mean, we have so many kids who are scoring right now, and we’re playing well right now, it’s not just a one-man team.”

Senior Wallace Bakari led the Red Raiders with 18 points. Sophomore Notorious Grooms scored 12 points, Jamire Braxton 11 and sophomore Calvin Winfrey 10.

That set up a rematch for Uniontown in the PIAA quarterfinals against the team that eliminated them from the WPIAL playoffs in the quarters, North Catholic.

Trailing the Trojans, 32-28, at halftime, the Red Raiders played a suffocating defense in the third quarter, limiting North Catholic to five points while taking a three-point lead in the fourth.

The game came down to the wire.

Uniontown trailed by two with just over 2 seconds remaining when they got the ball into the hands of Bakari, who drilled the winning 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 55-54 victory.

“They are a tough team to play,” Kezmarsky said of North Catholic. “They are such a smart team defensively and they move the ball so well, so we really wanted to improve not chasing them. Our kids did a great job playing man-to-man.”

So was the game-winning play with Bakari just how they drew it up in the timeout?

“I’ve said I don’t care if I drew it up or if the kids drew it up, as long as that ball went it, I’m happy,” Kezmarsky said. “I told them to push it up the court, and they threw it to Calvin Winfrey and we had some players breaking to the right. And they left Bakari wide open, and Calvin made a great pass and Bakari made a 25-foot shot and the place went crazy. The kids made good decisions.”

The Red Raiders are going to have to make near-perfect decisions Monday when they battle WPIAL champion Lincoln Park at Charleroi at 7 p.m. for a spot in the PIAA Class 4A championship game Thursday night in Hershey.

“We haven’t seen them, but I’ve watched them so much,” Kezmarsky said. “They have one of the top sophomore guards in the country (Meleek Thomas), but they have six or seven players, so watching them, you can’t say if we stop two players we can win. There’s a reason they are 28-1. I’m just telling my players, we have nothing to lose.”

2022-23 Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Teams of the Week

Week 10 – Neshannock Lancers

Week 9 – Deer Lakes Lancers

Week 8 – Penn Hills Indians

Week 7 – Monessen Greyhounds

Week 6 – Seton LaSalle Rebels

Week 5 – New Castle Red Hurricanes

Week 4 – Hampton Talbots

Week 3 – Mohawk Warriors

Week 2 – Central Catholic Vikings

Week 1 – Thomas Jefferson Jaguars


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