Hempfield knocks off defenseless USC, 65-56
When a basketball team lets an opponent score 65 points, chances are that club will have difficulty posting a victory, especially when that squad only averages 58.4 points per game.
Such was the case with Upper St. Clair. The Lady Panthers allowed Hempfield nearly two points above their average in their first-round WPIAL Quad-A playoff game at Bethel Park. As a result they suffered a 65-56 loss that ended their season.
“You can’t win if you don’t play good defense,” said USC floor boss Ernie Koontz.
They were one step ahead of us and they played way more aggressive than we did.”
From the tip, it was clear the Spartans came to play. The tournament’s No. 12 seed opened up a 5-0 lead and coasted to a 20-13 advantage in the first frame. By halftime, the lead expanded to 35-18 then swelled to 50-30 before the No. 5 Panthers rallied. They closed the gap to five, 57-52, on a pair of free throws by Constance Raftis. However, a 6-for-6 showing at the line sealed the victory for Hempfield in the final 1:53 of play.
“We know we can score points and we think it’s okay when we let teams score more than 50,” sighed Koontz.
Monica Burns, who averages 20 points per game, led three players in double figures with 19 tallies. Lexi Irwin followed with 17 markers while Leah Knizner supplied 16 points for the Spartans, who improved to 15-8 overall.
Raftis led the Lady Panthers with 19 points, 14 of them in the second half. She buried a 3-pointer and a field goal that narrowed the lead to 57-50.
Even though Hempfield missed the front end of two bonus shots from the line and two additional free throws, the Panthers were unable to make up the margin mainly because of turnovers.
“We did not play defense,” Koontz said. “We did not rebound. We did not take care of the basketball.”
Rachel Mazzie and Madison Serio both finished with 15 points apiece. Serio nailed a pair of 3-pointers while Mazzie buried one from beyond the arc. Ally Steve also had a 3-pointer.
While USC ended its season at 14-7 overall, Hempfield advanced to the quarterfinals set for Feb. 21 at a site and time to be determined. The Spartans will play Bethel Park, a 36-29 winner over Seneca Valley. In the triumph, Harper Zimmer fired in 11 points for the Black Hawks, who are 17-5 overall.
In Class AA girls’ playoff action, Bishop Canevin used an 18-point performance from Johnie Olkosky to down Beaver, 55-36.
Top-seeded Seton-La Salle defeated West Shamokin, 61-33.
Shaunay Edmonds and Yacine Diop led the way for the Rebels with 11 and 10 tallies.