Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Team of the Week for January 24, 2022

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Monday 24 January 2022 | 11:40 PM


Jeff Ackermann knows a thing or two about winning basketball.

He led Moon to three consecutive WPIAL Boys’ Basketball Championships from 2004-2006.

He then took over the Pine-Richland program and led the Rams back-to-back district gold in 2016-2017.

He is now in his second season with Baldwin.

After the Highlanders won just one game in the 2020 season, Ackerman helped them improve to 6-13 last season.

Now Baldwin has won four in a row and is tied by four points for first place in Section 2-6A with an overall record of 9-5.

“We’ve had a lot of setbacks so far this year,” Ackermann said. “I think we’re getting better and better. I think we’ve got a lot of guys who can play a lot better, so we haven’t peaked yet. We have a lot more to go. Our section is super tough and deep. You have to go every night be ready to play.”

The winning streak and climbing the Section ladder began two weeks ago for the Highlanders after dropping their first two Section matches to traditional powers Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon.

“After our Lebo game, we took the stance that our Canon-Mac game was our chance to get back into the playoff race,” said Ackermann. “We said we had our backs against the wall and now start 0-2. We lost most of that game (Canon-McMillan), but we played a great fourth quarter and found a way to win.”

The winning continued last week. It started with a big section showdown in Bethel Park.

“Our win at BP was a complete team effort,” said Ackermann. “I was really proud of the way my team played. James Wesling was clearly in a zone. Every time a player can score 48 points, it’s a special night.

“That win wasn’t just James. We had so many guys playing well that night. From Nate Richards to Joey Carr to Nate Wesling to AJ Cherico to Owen Hutchinson and Connor Gitzen, they played great. We were very locked in and my boys played very hard.”

The 86-66 win put Baldwin level with Bethel Park, Upper St. Clair and Mount Lebanon midway through the section game.

Baldwin returned home on Friday and success followed. The Highlanders won No. 9, their most in four years, beating Seneca Valley 61-54.

“Friday night against Seneca Valley was a great night for us,” said Ackermann. “Seneca was a very strong team with a hard nose. I really liked how my boys reacted. I love how the Baldwin-Whitehall community is starting to follow us. Our student department was great.”

Junior James Wesling again led Baldwin by 17 points. Ackermann loves how his second team all-section guard continues to improve, culminating in Tuesday’s monster performance.

“Our hope was that he could reach another level,” said Ackermann. “He certainly has this year. I’ve been a head coach for over 20 years. I’ve been blessed with many great players at Moon and Pine-Richland. I’ve never had anyone score 48 points for me. We preach balance, but James was just in a zone that night. He was just so focused and wanted to attack and attack.”

Baldwin has not won a playoff game since 2003. However, there is still a lot of work to be done in the second half of the season before the Highlanders can think about the postseason.

It starts off with a tough week ahead with a no section home game against Chartiers Valley before a visit to defending champions Upper St. Clair on Friday.

“This week coming up is huge for us,” said Ackermann. “We play a very solid CV team and then travel to the USC for a chance at first place in our section. Both games will be a huge challenge for us. Hopefully we are up to the task. Baldwin has not won a boys’ basketball championship since 1986. It’s something we know about and talk about. It is certainly a goal of ours.”

2022 Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Teams of the Week

Week 4 – Penn Hills Indians

week 3 – Carlynton Cougars

Week 2 – North Hills Indians

Week 1 – Cornell Raiders

Tags: Baldwin

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