With a loaded lineup propelling Moon to championship frontrunner status in Class 5A entering the season, a 2-2 record isn’t exactly where coach Gino Palmosina expected his team to be through four games.

Then again, considering the grueling strength of schedule and untimely set of circumstances his team has encountered, it could be argued that Moon’s .500 record should actually come with a sigh of relief.

Playing without standout junior Michael Santicola, who sustained an injury in a season-opening loss against defending state champion Lincoln Park, and fresh off the news that Braylon Johnson was no longer with the team, Moon (2-2) went on the road and toppled North Allegheny on Tuesday night in convincing fashion, 76-60. Star senior Elijah Guillory led all scorers with 30 points.

“We scheduled a gauntlet, but the expectation is still the same,” Palmosina said. “I think our kids are a little disappointed with where we stand right now, and I think some of that frustration showed tonight. … Our kids are hungry. We had a really good offseason. We didn’t expect to be 2-2 at this point, but it’s over with, and we’re moving on to Friday.”

After opening the season with a 53-43 loss against defending WPIAL Class 4A champion Lincoln Park, Moon bounced back with a 56-41 win over defending WPIAL Class 6A champion Central Catholic, then fell to defending WPIAL Class 5A champion Penn Hills, 54-53.

Charlie Depner (14 points) and Carter Tumulty (11 points) joined Guillory in double figures for Moon on Tuesday, while Joey Dopirak poured in 27 points for North Allegheny (1-3) in the defeat.

“It’s great to have a player who is more interested in team success than himself,” Palmosina said about Guillory. “He could have probably had 40 tonight. They started blitzing ball screens on him, and he was making the right reads.”

Moon coach Gino Palmosina talks to his team during play against North Allegheny on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023, at North Allegheny High School. Moon won, 76-60. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Palmosina confirmed that Johnson, the younger brother of Brooklyn Nets forward Cam Johnson and Penn State forward Donovan “Puff” Johnson, is no longer with the team after transferring in from Arizona prior to the season. That means other players like Depner, Tumulty and Aiden Reesman will have to help take some of the weight off Guillory’s shoulders until Santicola’s return.

So far, so good.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Palmosina said. “[Carter] Tumulty has played a big role in that. He can really shoot the ball. Guys like Aiden Reesman and Charlie Depner have stepped up as well. It’s all about making the right reads.”

Although Guillory has yet to receive the same accolades and recognition as other players of his caliber from the media and college coaches and scouts, Palmosina said the buzz around his recruitment is starting to pick up. Although he has the ability to score 30 to 40 points per night, Guillory prefers to set his teammates up and make the right plays to help his team win — attributes that will go a long way toward Moon’s title chances this season.

“He’s as good as it gets in the area, and I mean that,” Palmosina said. “Especially the last couple years, he hasn’t gotten as much publicity as some of the other guys in the area. … We keep telling him it’s going to come. It’s starting to come slowly. The phone is starting to ring a little bit, as it should.

“We have a gem out in Moon Township, and there are a lot of Division I schools missing out on a kid like this.”

North Allegheny’s Joey Dopirak looks to pass the ball against Moon on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023, at North Allegheny High School. Dopirak scored a team-leading 27 points for North Allegheny in a 76-60 defeat. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Other boys games

• One of the most anticipated games of the night ended in dramatic fashion, as Nathan Schanbacher forced overtime with a tip-in at the end of regulation, then drained a buzzer-beating baseline floater to lift North Hills (2-1) to a thrilling 73-71 win at Butler (2-1). Eric James put up a team-leading 25 points for the Indians to go with 20 from Zach Pollaro, while Braylon Littlejohn scored a game-high 28 points for the Golden Tornado and Donovan Carney added 22.

• Billy Schaeffer led the way with 26 points for defending WPIAL Class 3A champion Deer Lakes (4-1), while Collin Rodgers chipped in 18 and Wayne Love added 16 for the Lancers in an exciting 66-55 win at Mohawk in double overtime. Jay Wrona scored a team-high 19 points for the Warriors (0-3) to go with 14 from Bobby Fadden and 12 from Keigan Hopper.

• Peter Kramer poured in a game-high 27 points for unbeaten Hampton (4-0), and Liam Mignogna tallied 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Talbots in a 70-58 home win against Avonworth (3-1). Noah Goetz scored 20 and Rowan Carmichael finished with 19 while surpassing 1,000 career points for the Antelopes.

• Jackson Bauman scored a team-high 18 points to help Knoch remain undefeated with an impressive 67-58 win over visiting Mars (2-2). Ryan Ceh scored a game-high 22 points for the Planets, while Derek Lang finished with 16 and Zane Pacek added 13 for the Knights (4-0).

• Jayden Davis scored a team-leading 15 points to pace four double-digit scorers for Chartiers Valley (3-2) in a 51-41 win over visiting Obama Academy (0-3). Torrien Perkins led all scorers with 18 points for Obama, while Julian Semplice and Jake Lewis each contributed 12 for the Colts.

• Pete Burke scored a team-high 24 points and Owen Dombrosky added 20 for Serra Catholic (3-2), but it wasn’t enough to overcome a 29-point effort by Ellwood City star Joseph Roth in a 71-59 win for the host Wolverines (2-4).

• Ja’Tawn Williams scored a team-leading 22 points to go with 15 apiece from Max Butler and Darius Davis, leading Latrobe (2-2) to a 68-61 win at Quaker Valley (0-4). Zach Washington led the Quakers with 22 points to go with 16 from Jae Coyle.

• Isiah Turner led all scorers with 21 points while Charlie Meehleib tacked on 14 and Cy Herchelroath added 13 for Elizabeth Forward (3-1) in a 64-60 win over Ringgold (1-3). Syzair Dungee led the Rams with 18 points.

• Jake Wolfe led a trio of double-digit scorers for Montour (3-1) with 23 points, aided by 13 points from Kaleb Platz and 10 from Daniel Batch in a 61-49 win at Kiski School (1-4).

• Thomas Jefferson surged to a 73-28 road win at Steel Valley (0-5) behind 13 points from Evan Berger and 10 from Nick Trklja. The Jaguars (4-1) jumped out to an 18-2 lead after the opening quarter and held a 43-10 lead at the break.

• Tim Kershaw scored a game-high 17 points while Lorenzo Gardner and Dennis Hawkins each chipped in 12 points for Monessen (2-1) in a 68-37 home win over Carmichaels (2-3). Ayden Adamson finished with a team-high 14 points for the Mighty Mikes.

• Macky Bennis led four double-digit scorers with 15 points for Burrell (4-0), which also received 12 points apiece from Tucker Bitar, Ryan Wass and Dylan McKillop in a 75-22 win over visiting St. Joseph (0-5).

• Jase Bedillion and Collin Bisceglia each finished with 14 points to lead five double-digit scorers for visiting Jefferson-Morgan (5-1) in a 65-52 triumph at Beth-Center (1-4). Houston Guesman finished with 13, Dayten Marion contributed 12 and Max Ivanusic added 11 in the win for the Rockets.

• Anthony Bonner had 10 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals for Neshannock (4-1) in a 54-46 win against Slippery Rock (3-2), while Talan Anderton and David Kwiat led the Lancers with 12 points apiece in the victory.

• Brody Almashy finished with a game-high 23 points to go with 20 from Andrew Corfield and 14 from Carter Wilson, fueling South Side (2-2) to a 75-46 win against visiting Bentworth (1-3). Ben Hays led the Bearcats with 10 points.

• Lucas Grimsley scored a game-high 17 points to lead Sewickley Academy (3-2) past visiting Eden Christian (0-5) in a 42-41 come-from-behind win. Sewickley scored 22 of its 42 points in the final quarter after trailing, 23-20, going into the fourth.

Moon’s Aiden Reesman looks to the basket against North Allegheny on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023, at North Allegheny High School. Moon won, 76-60. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Girls games

• Alena Fusetti scored a team-high 18 points and Aubree Hupp finished with 15 for Blackhawk (5-1) in a 49-32 home win over Mars (3-2). Vita Vargo tied for the game-high with 18 points to lead the Planets.

• Natalia Schaffer scored a game-high 21 points for Fox Chapel (2-3), but it wasn’t enough to lead the Foxes past unbeaten Plum in a hotly contested 58-54 win for the visiting Mustangs (4-0). Pascale Olczak paced Plum with 16 points to go with 13 apiece from Megan Marston and Riley Stephans.

• Alaina Holtz led three double-digit scorers for West Allegheny (3-3) with 16 points, while Ella Smith added 14 and Alexis Santucci scored 10 to help the Indians secure a 57-47 win at Allderdice (2-4). Bailey White scored a game-high 18 points to lead the Dragons.

Frazier‘s Allie Yauch (24 points) outdueled Jefferson-Morgan‘s Kayla Larkin (20 points) to propel the Commodores (3-3) to a 51-43 home win over the Rockets (1-3).

Three stars

*** — Carson Baer, Pine-Richland. Baer did a little bit of everything for the Rams in a 59-49 win at Fox Chapel, scoring 13 points, dishing out 10 assists and finishing a perfect 8-of-8 from the free-throw line.

** — Jack Dunbar, Peters Township. The Indians’ standout senior scored a game-high 26 points to lead Peters to a 69-60 home win over Canon-McMillan.

* — Nate Papuga, Derry. One of the leading scorers in the WPIAL, Papuga kept up his prolific pace for the Trojans with 35 points and 11 rebounds in a 65-60 home win over Greensburg Salem.

Hot from deep

Players with 3 or more 3-pointers: Jay Wrona, Mohawk, 5; Syzair Dungee, Ringgold, 4; Elijah Guillory, Moon, 4; Billy Schaeffer, Deer Lakes, 4; Riley Stephans, Plum, 4; Kaleb Platz, Montour, 3; Carter Tumulty, Moon, 3.

North Allegheny coach Dave DeGregorio talks to his team during a timeout against Moon on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023, at North Allegheny High School. Moon won, 76-60. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Boys scores

Avella 58, Freedom 44

Baldwin 74, Bethel Park 59

Belle Vernon 79, Bishop Canevin 57

Brownsville 64, Geibel Catholic 50

Burgettstown 64, Carlynton 61

Burrell 75, St. Joseph 22

Chartiers Valley 51, Obama Academy 41

Deer Lakes 66, Mohawk 55 (2OT)

Derry 65, Greensburg Salem 60

East Allegheny 54, Riverview 46

Elizabeth Forward 64, Ringgold 60

Ellwood City 71, Serra Catholic 59

Franklin Regional 60, Hempfield 45

Frazier 66, Mapletown 28

Hampton 70, Avonworth 58

Highlands 62, Shady Side Academy 58

Jefferson-Morgan 65, Beth-Center 52

Knoch 67, Mars 58

Latrobe 68, Quaker Valley 61

Laurel Highlands 59, Connellsville 40

McDowell 77, Brashear 52

Monessen 68, Carmichaels 37

Montour 61, Kiski School 49

Moon 76, North Allegheny 60

Neshannock 54, Slippery Rock 46

New Brighton 49, Western Beaver 43

New Castle 69, Hickory 63

North Hills 73, Butler 71 (OT)

Northgate 81, Sto-Rox 52

Norwin 64, Mount Pleasant 51

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart 54, Nazareth Prep 43

Penn Hills 66, Clairton 25

Peters Township 69, Canon-McMillan 60

Pine-Richland 59, Fox Chapel 49

Plum 60, Propel Braddock Hills 25

Sewickley Academy 42, Eden Christian 41

South Allegheny 74, Washington 60

South Side 75, Bentworth 46

Southmoreland 68, Yough 62

Springdale 53, Environmental Charter 19

Thomas Jefferson 73, Steel Valley 28

Trinity 72, Keystone Oaks 58

Valley 53, Leechburg 46

Union 68, Blackhawk 64

West Mifflin 73, Perry 23

Winchester Thurston 64, Hillel Academy 14

Girls scores

Albert Gallatin 58, Southmoreland 14

Blackhawk 49, Mars 32

Eden Christian 41, Beaver County Christian 12

Frazier 51, Jefferson-Morgan 43

Perry 42, Propel Montour 25

Plum 58, Fox Chapel 54

Ringgold 42, Carlynton 33

St. Joseph 63, Avella 24

West Allegheny 57, Allderdice 47

Westinghouse 38, Propel Braddock Hills 9

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at srotstein@unionprogress.com.

Steve Rotstein

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at srotstein@unionprogress.com.