Balance, aggressiveness help Penn Hills get off to 9-2 start
By: Andrew John
Thursday, January 10, 2019 | 7:57 PM
Heading into the season, Penn Hills boys basketball coach Dan DeRose was unsure how his team would perform after losing key contributors from a WPIAL title team.
However, the Indians have jumped out to a 9-2 start, with a 4-0 mark in Section 1-5A.
DeRose has been proud of the team’s commitment on the defensive end and the players’ ability to take high percentage shots.
The Indians have been led by senior guard Tyree Spencer, who is averaging 21.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.6 steals. Spencer, who averaged 3.0 points last season, is shooting 63.8 percent from the field.
He scored 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in an 86-65 win over Albert Gallatin in Section 1-5A action Jan. 8. In the Indians’ previous game, Spencer scored 32 points in a 90-46 win over Jeannette in the Jamfest Tournament at Penn Hills on Jan. 5.
“He’s taking the basketball to the basket with strong authority and has the highest basketball IQ. He knows how to maximize his ability. He’s 6-2 at best, but he can play like he’s 6-6 or 6-7. On defense, he can guard a guard, he can guard a post guy, he’s our best press guy,” DeRose said.
“He’s effective no matter where I put him offensively and defensively. He’s out there and telling everybody what they need to do. That’s where I was uncertain if I was going to have that type of player this year.”
The Indians, who are shooting 54.5 percent from the floor as a team, have three other players who average double figures in scoring. Junior point guard Kyree Mitchell is averaging 11.0 points and 4.0 assists while shooting 52.4 percent from the floor.
Sophomore forward Wes Kropp mans the paint as he averages 12.7 points and 6.2 rebounds in the first 11 games of the season. Senior guard/forward Marshall McArthur is averaging 11.5 points, while shooting 56.7 percent from the floor.
“The good thing about this team is that I have a number of different guys that can score any given night. It has given us a lot of balance. We are aggressive, we are able to get to the basket and we are taking high percentage shots,” DeRose said.
DeRose believes defense is their best offense as they are forcing 24 turnovers per game, while holding opponents to 39.2 percent from the floor.
The Indians have averaged 72.6 points and held opponents to 53.0.
“That has to be our game. We have to take high percentage shots. We have to force our pace. We have to turn the ball over and turn our defense into offense,” DeRose said.
“We are doing that because we’re working so hard. The moment you stop working, those numbers drop and you’re not getting easy buckets and that’s when you start losing ball games.”
The Indians, who average 17.1 assists per game as a team this season, have won all of their nine victories by double figures. Penn Hills lost its third game of the season to Latrobe, 90-77, on Dec. 13.
However, the Indians second loss to North Allegheny, 57-54, in the North Allegheny tournament on Dec. 28 seemed to really disturb DeRose since he cited the loss was caused by a lack of effort.
The wake-up call led to an 81-43 win over Greensburg Salem in section play on Jan. 4 and following wins over Jeannette and Albert Gallatin.
The Indians will get a better idea of where they stand in the section as well as the rest of the WPIAL when they face Woodland Hills twice, as well matchups against Fox Chapel and and Chester on Jan. 18 and Jan. 20.
Andrew John is a freelance writer.
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