USC a team to beat
Will Ross, left, and John Duffy, right, contain Wyatt Hagerty. The pair’s defense was critical to Upper St. Clair’s win over Bethel Park. The duo held the 6-11 senior center to two, first-quarter points.
With 10 straight wins, Upper St. Clair is looking like the team to beat in Quad-A boys’ basketball.
For, after their impressive upset of Bethel Park, 63-50, in Section 4, the Panthers knocked off Gateway, 59-56, during the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Classic held Sunday at La Roche College.
“Amazing,” said USC head coach Danny Holzer after the thrilling triumph. “I am so proud of this team. We feel it’s a signature win out of section for us.”
With the win, the Panthers stamped respect for themselves when the WPIAL creates its playoff brackets. The steering committee will announce pairings for its post-season tournament Tuesday, Feb. 12.
“We focused on this game for sure. We prepared as if for the playoffs and a seed game. We made it a statement game for us.”
With the win against the Gators, the Panthers announced that they have arrived. USC’s shooting certainly has.
In the victory, USC knocked down 10 of its 23 attempts from 3-point range. J.J. Conn and Jordan Grabowski each buried four treys while Joel Klein nailed two. Conn finished with 22 points while Grabowski totaled 19 tallies.
“Gateway is long and big and athletic and it’s hard for us to get inside on teams like that so we have to rely on the three,” explained Holzer.
Sharp shooting sparked USC also to its huge win over rival Bethel Park, which was led by Joe Mascaro’s 18 points and Cody Gilchrist’s 10 tallies. The Panthers buried five treys and they connected on 17 of 19 free throws, 12 of 13 in the final frame.
Conn and Grabowski again led the attack pumping in 20 and 15 markers. Klein followed with eight points, six off a pair of 3-pointers in the decisive fourth frame.
“Those three have been big for us,” said Holzer. “Grabowski is such a gutsy, tough player. He wants to score,” said Holzer. “Conn does a great job inside and outside. He creates great chances to score for us. And, Joel can shoot.”
With the wins, the Panthers improved to 13-3 overall. Heading into Tuesday’s game (Jan. 29) with Baldwin, USC was tied for the section lead with BP. Both were 8-1 in the division.
While the Panthers sit in the driver’s seat, along with BP, Holzer would not say his Panthers have the edge heading into the home stretch. USC hosts Peters Township Friday, Feb. 1 before they visit Canon-McMillan for a 2 p.m. tipoff Sunday, Feb. 3. The Panthers finish section action on the road at Moon on Feb. 5 before welcoming Mt. Lebanon on Feb. 8.
Of the BP win Holzer said that it was “huge” but emphasized, “this thing has a long way to go. There are a lot of tough games down the road but we are only worried about Peters Township.
In USC’s first encounter with the Indians, the Panthers needed double overtime to secure Holzer’s 300th career coaching victory.
“We are battling for the section title and they are battling to stay in the playoff hunt,” Holzer said of the Indians, who were 4-6 in the section and 7-10 overall heading into action this week. “So I expect it to be a hard-fought game. “From here on in, they are all rivalry games and I expect every team to give each other its best shots.
“Of course, I like the position that we are in,” Holzer conceded, “but at the same time we know that we can beat everybody and we also can lose to anyone. That’s how strong this section is.”
USC’s strength, as well as string of victories, has come from camaraderie.
“We have great team chemistry,” noted Holzer. “These guys like one another and they work hard. After practice is over, they stick around and shoot and play shooting games.”
Meanwhile, many of USC’s opponents are working out the kinks as they make their final run for a playoff spot. Four are available in the section.
BP, like USC, appears to have the edge as the Hawks are also 8-1 while Lebo trails in third place with a 5-5 mark. Canon-McMillan, Trinity and Peters Township all have four victories in the division.
After entertaining Peters Township (Jan. 29), the Hawks visit Mt. Lebanon on Feb. 1 and Moon on Feb. 2. BP also hosts Trinity (Feb. 5), then closes at Baldwin on Feb. 8.
“We don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves,” said O’Connor after the USC loss. “We have to regroup and refocus. I think we’re grounded now. We know we have a lot of big basketball games ahead of us.”
Mt. Lebanon scored a key Section 4-AAAA road victory against Baldwin, 62-60.
Justin David led the way with 19 points. He buried four, 3-pointers. Matt Hoffman and Tyler Roth also finished in double digits with 16 and 10 tallies.
Peters Township, however, succumbed to Trinity, 60-46.
Gabe Pritz pumped in 23 points while Tim Swoope supplied 12 tallies for the Indians, who fell to 4-6 in the section and 7-10 overall.
Chartiers Valley and Seton-La Salle exhibited their strengths as well in the Pittsburgh Basketball Classic.
The Colts, who are undefeated in Section 5-AA and 16-1 overall, roared to victory over Sto-Rox, 74-43.
Michael Boulos and Matty McConnell each pumped in 19 points.
Boulos also led the attack on McGuffey. In a 79-30 win, he fired in 18 points.
Spencer Casson (13), Dominic Castello (11), Haedyn Herzer (11) and McConnell (11) all finished in double figures for the Colts.
SLS defeated Ambridge, 50-48. Dale Clancy led the Rebels, who are 15-2 overall and undefeated in Section 4-AA. The junior guard exploded for 25 points.
SLS also defeated Thomas Jefferson, 57-46, in non-section play.
Dom DelGreco (15), Clancy (14) and Malik White (12) were in double figures for the Rebels.
In a key Section 5-AAA contest, South Fayette defeated Keystone Oaks, 79-65.
Evan Bonnaure fired in 26 points while C.J. Rudisill followed with 21 tallies. Also in double figures with 11 points was Lucas Russell.
Cory Sevacko’s 32 markers led all scorers.
In follow-up action, South Fayette succumbed to Wash High, 67-43.
Lucas Russell and Justin Watson led the Lions with 13 and 12 tallies.
The Lions have key games on tap next week when they visit Montour Feb. 5 and host Char Valley Feb. 8. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. for both games.
In non-section action, Bishop Canevin dropped a 46-31 decision to Seneca. Mike Tambellini tossed in eight points for the Crusaders.
Chartiers-Houston also fell to Burgettstown, 53-32, in Section 4 play. Ben Shade’s 10 tallies paced the Bucs.
USC a team to beat
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