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Penn Hills Claims Class-5A WPIAL Title With 70-65 Victory Against Peters Township

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PITTSBURGH —The Penn Hills Indians came into the Petersen Events Center as the underdog to the top-seeded Peters Township Indians but left as champions. With the 70-65 victory, Penn Hills won their sixth WPIAL title and first since 2018.

When Chris Giles accepted the Penn Hills job back in 2020, he knew there was work to be done to reach this game. 

“Last year, we completely had a new starting line-up. Daemar [Kelly] was the only returning guy so I knew it was going to take some time. We took our lumps,” said coach Giles.

Some people questioned whether Penn Hills deserved to be the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL playoffs but last night the Indians proved themselves as the best team in the class.

“I think our team is underrated as a whole. There [was] not much publicity going on about our team throughout the entire year. We were holding teams under 40 points for a long time,” said Giles.

“Throughout the whole year, we always had a chip on our shoulder [because] we never really got picked to win it all… We just kept our heads down and kept working,” added Kelly.

The first quarter started quickly as Peters Township won the tip and looked to score in transition but the Penn Hills’ defenders blocked the first three shots. 

Nonetheless, Peters Township struck first as Jack Dunbar converted his first two shots, including a 3-pointer to take a 5-0 lead. Penn Hills battled right back behind eight opening quarter points by Noah Barren to take a 15-13 lead into the second. 

Before Peters Township realized it, Penn Hills was in the midst of a 12-2 run. Peters Township responded with a 9-2 run of their own to stop the bleeding.  In the last 1:18 of the quarter, the lead would change three times with Peters Township leading 30-29 after the first half. 

Penn Hills used an 8-0 run to retake the lead and it quickly turned into a 15-4 run that lasted just under six minutes of game time. Then, just like in the first two quarters, Peters Township responded by not allowing Penn Hills to score for the final 2:12 of the quarter. 

Peters Township trailed 44-39 entering the final frame but after a couple of buckets to open the quarter the lead was trimmed to one possession. Penn Hills answered back with a 10-2 run that gave them the lead for good.

Penn Hills was led by their stellar guard play as the two starters each scored over 20 points. Barren scored a game-high 22 points as he shot 8-for-15 from the field. 16 of Barren’s 22 points came in the first half. Kelly tallied 21 points, 15 in the second half.

In total, four Indians scored double digits in the victory. Robert Thomas scored 13 points and Julian Dugger added another ten.

“It’s high right now; I’m not gonna lie. I never felt like this before,” said Barren while laughing with his teammates about his emotions after the game.

Peters Township was able to outshoot opposing teams using the 3-pointer this season but only managed to make six in the championship game, shooting 27.3% from beyond the arc. Penn Hills also won the rebound battle with a +9 advantage.

“Our guys take pride on the defensive end, that’s what we do. We hang our hats on that,” said Giles.

Brendan McCullough finished with a team-high 19 points for Peters Township. Dunbar added 15 points and Nate Miller scored another 11 for the Indians.

Both teams have qualified for the PIAA state playoffs and will now look ahead to the next goal, a state championship.

“We know as a team, we have more to accomplish still. This is not our only goal. We want to go to states and win that too,” said Dugger after the game. “It feels good but [we] can only celebrate for so long.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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