USC Wins OT Thriller Over Baldwin, 63-58

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The Baldwin Highlanders were 4.1 seconds away from a critical road victory, but Upper St. Clair junior Diandra Conwell drained a three-point shot at the buzzer to force overtime  and the Panthers went on to claim a 63-58 win in Section 4-AAAA on Thursday night.  The win clinches a playoff spot for the Panthers and puts the Highlanders post-season hopes in a precarious position.  Baldwin now sits a game back of fourth place Canon-McMillan with three games remaining. In those three games, the Highlanders will face Canon-McMillan, Mt. Lebanon and Bethel Park.

Both teams settled into the game slowly in the first quarter but by the second quarter the Baldwin outside shooters had warmed up considerably, dropping in four three-pointers on their way to a 29-19 halftime lead. Victoria Johnston, Mandi Johnston, Lauren Gilbert and Taylor Letender all poured in buckets from beyond the arc in the opening half for the Highlanders.

In the second half, the Panthers quickly erased their 10-point deficit with a half-court trap and a 10-0 run to even up the score, 29-29. Upper St. Clair’s stifling defense didn’t allow a Baldwin field goal until Mandi Johnston hit a three-pointer with 2:46 to go in the third quarter to retake the lead, 32-29. Johnston followed with another three-pointer moments later for a six-point advantage.  The Highlanders led 35-33 by the end of the third period.

With about a minute to play in regulation, Rachel Mazzie, who finished with 15 points on the night, knocked down a fade away jumper to give Upper St. Clair a 46-43 lead. Mandi Johnston quickly responded with a layup to trim the score to 46-45 before Upper St. Clair nearly gave the game away with two costly turnovers.  The first giveaway with 30 seconds left was an errant pass that was stolen by Gilbert and ultimately led to an Upper St. Clair foul that put Mandi Johnston to the line.  The senior guard drained both free-throws to pull Baldwin ahead, 47-46. 

On Upper St. Clair’s next possession, Letender stole the ball away for the Highlanders and again Mandi Johnston was fouled, but this time for a one-and-one opportunity.  Johnston, who scored a game-high 28 points, was clutch as she connected on two free-throw attempts with 4.1 seconds remaining to increase the Highlanders lead to 49-46. That set the stage for Conwell’s heroics as the junior drained a three-pointer from the left wing with a defender in her face at the buzzer to send the game to overtime. Conwell scored a team-high 25 points and earned the Quad-A Network’s Player of the Game honors.

In the extra session, USC broke a 50-50 tie with a Mazzie layup and an Elayna Kaylor three-pointer to grab a 55-50 lead.  Thanks to junior Madison Serio’s work at the free-throw line, the Panthers held on for an exciting 63-58 victory. Serio ended the night in double figures with 10 points, scoring all 10 after halftime.

Upper St. Clair improves to 11-4 overall and 6-3 in Section 4.  Baldwin drops to 9-7 overall and 3-6 in section play. The Panthers will host Seneca Valley in a non-section game on Tuesday night. The Highlanders host Hopewell in a non-section affair on Saturday before a must-win game against Canon-McMillan on Monday at 7:30 pm.

For our pre-game interview with Baldwin head coach Gavin Prosser, click here.
For our pre-game interview with USC head coach Ernie Koontz, click here. 

Penn-Trafford at Norwin Game Summary

Penn-Trafford - Maria Palarino 20 pts, Katy Abreu 16 pts
Norwin - Alayna Gribble 13 pts