PITTSBURGH – Ringgold boys basketball coach Phil Pergola knew his team was in for a tough task Saturday playing Highlands, the top-ranked team in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs.
The Rams (14-10) found out first-hand just how good Highlands is as they fell, 80-57.
“They are the best team I have seen this year,” said Pergola, who has won 640 games in his 50 years as a head coach. “(Korry Myers) killed us in the first half and they were a step ahead of us.
“This was also the worst we shot all year.”
Highlands (20-3) came out fast in its first game in 16 days.
“We practiced hard all week,” said Highlands coach Tyler Stoczynski. “Different teams have different philosophies on how they want to get ready for the playoffs. We just came out with unbelievable energy. Everyone was scoring, everyone was rebounding and everyone was doing their part.”
Myers, a senior, hit four of his seven three-pointers in the first half and finished with a game-high 25 points.
Down 3-0 early, Highlands closed the first on a 16-2 run and led 16-5 after one quarter.
“I told the guys that the first run is the most important, and Highlands went on the first run,” Pergola said.
Halfway through the second, the Golden Rams led 32-10.
Ringgold began to chip away at the Highlands lead the rest of the half, but it still trailed 42-26 at halftime.
That would be the closest the score would be the rest of the way as Highlands led by as many as 26 in the fourth.
Ringgold had 10 turnovers while Highlands had eight.
Luke Cochran (22), Johnny Crise (11) and Jimmy Kunst (11) joined Myers in double figures for Highlands.
Crise, a 6’7 senior who will be a preferred walk-on tight end at Penn State in the fall, added eight rebounds, four blocks and scored six of his points on three dunks, including one on an alley-oop.
Demetrius Butler led Ringgold with 20 points and Chris Peccon added 12 while Luke Wyvratt finished with 10 rebounds.
Pergola spoke about his four-player senior class.
“They have played together since the eighth grade,” he said. “They have come to work every day and I would think, in the last two years, barring injury, they haven’t missed five practices.”
However, the season may not be over for the Rams.
Ringgold now goes from playing Highlands to being its biggest fans. If Highlands wins the WPIAL title, Ringgold qualifies for the PIAA tournament for a second year in a row.
“This thing isn’t over yet,” Pergola said. “If Highlands wins, we (make the states).
“We will bounce back and be ready to play if we get the chance.”