Brendan McCullough

By Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

After stealing the ball, Brendan McCullough (2) races down court with Nick Brown (4) in hot pursuit during Peters Township’s 75-67 win against Bethel Park. McCullough tallied seven points in the win while Brown finished with nine. The Indians will host the Black Hawks at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 10 in a game that could decide the section champion. The Indians and Black Hawks were tied with Thomas Jefferson for the Section 1, Class 5A lead. All finished 4-1 at the halfway mark in league play.

Action heats up in local high school gymnasiums as area basketball teams head into the home stretch with the second round of section competition.

Peters Township has had the hot hand recently. Since losing a triple overtime game to Thomas Jefferson, 105-100, the Indians have won six straight, including a non-section contest against highly regarded Mt. Lebanon, 60-56.

The Blue Devils were ranked third in Class 6A of the WPIAL, behind Central Catholic and New Castle, after their rebound victory against Bethel Park, 50-48. Lebo ran the table (5-0) during the first half of Section 2 play and owned an 11-5 record before starting the second half of action at Baldwin on Jan. 27.

Meanwhile, the Indians were ranked fourth in Class 5A, behind Penn Hills, North Hills and Fox Chapel. They finished the first half of Section 1 play tied with the Black Hawks and TJ with 4-1 records. PT owned a 13-3 overall record before visiting the Jaguars on Jan. 27 to start the second half of section play.

Heading into the second round of section action PT coach Joe Urmann said, “We have to continue to find ways to get better and, more specifically, commit to defending and rebounding better.”

While the Indians are averaging 70.9 points per game, second in the classification behind North Hills (72.3), they are allowing 56.6 points an outing, which is 12 points more than Penn Hills, the top defensive club in 5A with 44.8 points allowed.

Missed defensive assignments contributed to PT falling behind the Blue Devils. The Indians trailed, 18-8 after one quarter and 36-22 at halftime, before rallying for the four-point victory.

“I was very proud of our collective response,” Urmann said. “Credit to our guys for staying connected and getting stops to spark our run.”

Brendan McCullough (17), Jake Ziegler (14) and Jack Dunbar (14) paced PT’s offensive attack. Dunbar led the team in deflections and McCullough and Dylan Donovan were cited for their performances.

“Those players showed a lot of guts. They were unbelievable,” Urmann said.

The Indians were equally impressive when they dispatched Elizabeth-Forward, 87-71, in follow-up action. Five players scored in double figures: Dunbar (20), Ziegler (15), Cam Mills (13), Donovan (11) and Nate Miller (10).

Meanwhile Lebo rebounded from the PT loss and defeated Bethel Park on the road.

In the triumph, Brody Barber (12), Tanner Donati (11) and Lucas Garofoli (10) and finished in double digits. Donati and Garofoli had 18 and 10 points, respectively, against the Indians while Nate Girod pitched in 12.

For the Black Hawks, who have lost three in a row since upending TJ, Nick Brown fired in 14 points against the Blue Devils.

While PT doesn’t play BP until the final regular-season playing date on Feb. 10, the Blue Devils have a big week ahead. They travel to Norwin on Jan. 31 and Upper St. Clair on Feb. 3. They needed double overtime to beat the Panthers in the first confrontation.

USC finished the first half of section action with a 4-1 record. They slipped to 9-8 overall after dropping a 59-58 crossover classification clash against Fox Chapel. In the loss, Nick Sukernek topped out with 23 points while Christian Ito and Matt Gaither followed with 12 and 10 tallies.

In other action, South Fayette will host Chartiers Valley at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 31 in a key Section 4, Class 5A game.

Although they owned a 13-3 overall mark, the Colts finished the first half of section play with a 2-3 record. The Lions were 8-7 overall and 1-4 in the division at the start of second round play.

Girls action

Upper St. Clair and South Fayette continue to dominate the girls action heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.

The Lady Panthers start have a challenging stretch ahead, starting with a road trip to Mt. Lebanon on Jan. 30. They will also visit Bethel Park and Canon-McMillan on Feb. 4 and 7. In between, they host Chartiers Valley on Feb. 7 and finish section action entertaining the Black Hawks at 7 p.m. Feb. 9.

Among the highlights during the first half of the season for USC was a recent triumph against Norwin, 56-45. With the win, the Panthers improved to 12-2 overall. They were undefeated (6-0) in the first half of section action.

The Panthers are led by Rylee Kalocay. The sophomore ranks among the Top 10 scorers in the WPIAL this winter with a 20-point average. USC also benefits from the experience of Kate Robbins, Mia Brown, Sam Prunzik and Paige Dellicarri. All started on last year’s WPIAL runner-up squad.

Meanwhile, the Lady Lions ran the table in the first half of Section 4 in Class 5A with a 5-0 record. They were 15-2 after key wins against Indiana, 81-47, and McKeesport, 49-40. The Tigers were ranked No. 1 before the SF contest.

Maddie Webber and Ava Leroux led the uprising against the Tigers, scoring 15 and 11, while Erica Hall pitched in 10 points. The threesome followed with 20, 16 and 14 against Indiana while Lainey Yater supplied 15 points.

Webber, who is a Villanova recruit, ranks among the top scorers in the WPIAL. She is averaging 17.7 points per game.

The Tigers host Lincoln Park at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 30. After three consecutive section contests against Montour, Trinity and West Allegheny to start February, South Fayette will travel to North Allegheny on Feb. 11 to take on the Tigers in the Bash with the Bronx Tournament that completes the regular season. The Tigers are ranked No. 4 in Class 6A behind No. 1 USC, Norwin and Mt. Lebanon.

Almanac Sports Editor

An award-winning journalist, Eleanor Bailey has been employed by Observer Publishing Company since 1982. She is the sports editor at The Almanac and a contributor for the Observer-Reporter.

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