John Sukernek was the unsung hero as Upper St. Clair (17-1) dispatched Canon-McMillan 54-39 in the first round of the WPIAL Class 6A boys basketball playoffs.
A first-year starter as a senior, Sukernek scored eight points in the victory, including a 3-pointer to squelch a Big Mac rally. C-M outscored the Panthers 17-10 in the third quarter after falling behind 30-14 in the first half.
Sukernek also spearheaded USC’s defense, which is one of the tops in the WPIAL allowing 50.7 points per game. He drew five charges and leads the team with nearly two dozen this season.
“John’s play was significant,” said USC head coach Dan Holzer. “He’s been a rock-solid fifth starter for us.”
Holzer also noted Sukernak was a JV starter and did not dress varsity last season. The coach said he is the epitome of the “program” player.
“John’s a great story and a great role model for younger kids,” Holzer said. “He worked as hard as anybody could and did all the little things he needed to get to this point. He waited his turn and never complained. Good things happen to those who work hard and are ready when their time comes.”
Sukernak is not just a solid basketball player. He is a model citizen and a member of National Honor Society.
“A high-level student. A sweetheart of a kid,” said Holzer. “The kind you want your daughter to marry.”
Luke Banbury is another of Holzer’s cerebral players. A high-honor student with a 3.8 GPA, he is bound for Cornell University.
Banbury led the Panthers offensively. He tossed in 20 points against the Big Macs.
Despite their 1-14 record, the Big Macs were a challenge for the Panthers, who entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed.
“It’s the playoffs,” said Holzer. “It’s a different type of tension and mindset. Everybody is giving you their best shot because of the finality of the situation. Nobody wants their season to be over.
“To their credit,” he added, “Canon-Mac played really hard and did not give up. They took it to us.”
Bethel Park (8-10) and Peters Township (6-9) were eliminated from the Class 5A playoffs.
The Hawks dropped a 63-44 decision to No. 2 Fox Chapel (19-2).
Ben Guffey and Dolan Waldo each scored 18 points to lead BP.
Despite a game-high 24 points from Julian Mascio, the Indians lost to Pine-Richland, 79-67.
Gavin Cote scored 15 and Pat McDonnell added 10 for PT, which was outscored 25-16 by the Rams (12-5) in the final quarter.
Chartiers Valley (20-3) defeated McKeesport, 74-56, in first-round action in the Class 5A playoffs. Brayden Reynolds scored 33 points, while Socrates Boulis followed with 17.
Also in Class 5A, Penn Hills (13-4) eliminated South Fayette, 60-27. Brandon Jakiela had six points for the Lions (9-10).