USC Bedevils Blue Devils, Lebo Still Makes Playoffs
By Don Rebel
There have been plenty of memorable moments through the decades from the great Upper St. Clair vs Mount Lebanon rivalry. But perhaps none were stranger than what happened between the two boys basketball teams on the final Friday of section play.
In the end both teams were celebrating.
The Panthers were thrilled to beat their rivals 54-47 to wrap up a tough section schedule which landed them in sixth place in AAAA-4 while the host Blue Devils were celebrating a playoff berth that came despite the loss thanks to Canon-McMillan’s buzzer beating victory over Peters Township. Both Mount Lebanon and Peters Township ended up tied for fourth place and both qualify after splitting their head-to-head games.
As expected, the tempo was deliberate between the two teams as USC led 9-6 after one quarter and led only 17-15 by halftime.
The tempo finally picked up in the second half as both teams started to click on offense while turning pressure defense into points on the other end of the floor. A back-and-fourth third quarter ended with Mount Lebanon holding the lead at 30-29.
But with nothing to play for, the Panthers showed great pride by taking control in the fourth quarter thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers from the left corner by senior Zack Pateras. Upper St. Clair built the lead to double digits and were able to cruise to victory thanks to some steady free throw shooting in the final quarter.
Senior Jack Wagner led USC with a game high 24-points while Pateras added 9 and sophomore Kyle Meinert contributed with 8 points off the bench. The win snapped a four game losing streak for the Panthers and is only their fourth victory since starting the season 7-2. They finished 6-8 in the section but improve to 11-10 overall heading into their season final Monday at Pine-Richland. This marks only the third time in Danny Holzer’s 21 years as Upper St. Clair head coach that the Panthers have missed the playoffs.
With just over a minute left and trailing by ten points during a timeout, word spread first through the student section and then into the Mount Lebanon huddle that Peters Township had lost, giving the Blue Devils a playoff berth. It was surreal to see a team down by ten and hanging their heads heading into the timeout to start jumping and celebrating moments later.
Before fouling out, junior Mark Lamendola led Mount Lebanon with 18 points while fellow junior Joey Passodelis chipped in with 9 and freshman Sean Loughran added 8 points. The Blue Devils end their regular season at 7-7 in the section and 10-12 overall as they gear up for another trip to theWPIAL postseason.