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Penn Hills dictates style of play during PIAA playoff run


Sunday, March 19, 2023 | 11:01 AM

The Penn Hills boys basketball team doesn’t have to worry about scoring style points. The Indians brand of basketball, whether playing fast or slow, is most concerned with the end result.

In the second round of the PIAA Class 5A basketball tournament, Penn Hills had to scratch and claw to beat Hershey, 50-42.

The Indians only led 16-15 at halftime and the game was even at 31 after three quarters.

“Hershey was a good team,” Penn Hills coach Chris Giles said. “They were physical and good on defense. It wasn’t pretty, but we gutted out a physical win.”

What the Indians have demonstrated most effectively in the postseason is patience. During the opening round against DuBois, Penn Hills (23-3) wasn’t bothered by the Beavers’ deliberate offensive approach.

The Indians stayed at home on defense and rolled to a dominating win. DuBois coach Dave Bennett complimented Penn Hills on how the Indians played defense. It was no surprise coming from a program that limits opponents to 44 points per game.

“That was going to be the big struggle,” Bennett said. “We knew that for us to keep it a game and be around in the second half, we couldn’t have live-ball turnovers. That was going to be a struggle because they are long, athletic and played with good motors.”

The Indians advanced to the state quarterfinals for the second consecutive year, earning another tough matchup with Erie Cathedral Prep on March 18. The results of that game were too late for this edition. The Indians lost to fellow WPIAL team New Castle in the quarterfinals last season.

The Ramblers won the District 8-9-10 subregional and also have a win over DuBois.

“Each round of the state tournament is like a boxing match,” Giles said. “Everyone plays in a different way. Some teams want to play fast. Other teams want to play zone. We have to be prepared for different styles. If you can’t adjust, you aren’t going to make it this far.”

Daemar Kelly led Penn Hills with 15 points against Hershey. Michai Oliver also scored 11 points, while Noah Barren added 10.

The Indians will need everyone to continue to read what their opponents are doing as Penn Hills hopes to move toward its second state title.

The Indians won the school’s only state crown in 2004.

“These guys have all played for me for a couple of years,” Giles said. “They know the system. We always tell them to take what the defense gives them.”

Tags: Penn Hills

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