The Upper St. Clair boys basketball team is averaging 74 points per game.
Such offensive outputs, though, are not necessarily enough to allow the Panthers to capture championships.
“Defense is the staple of our team,” said USC head coach Dan Holzer. “We know we have to do a good job on the defensive end. There will be nights that you don’t shoot well but if you play good defense, then you have a chance to win. If you don’t, then you don’t have a chance to win.”
After whipping Lincoln Park 85-53 and North Hills 81-49, the Panthers knocked off Bethel Park 57-53 in both teams’ section opener.
USC weathered a 4 for 29 showing from beyond the arc by picking up 16 steals to dispatch the Hawks, who led at halftime, 28-27. The Panthers first took a 41-38 lead at the end of the third quarter.
“Bethel Park played us tough. They played a gritty game,” Holzer said. “Defense helped us win on a night when we couldn’t make anything.”
Holzer said all five of the players he puts on the court can shoot, particularly from 3-point range. In fact, against North Hills, USC buried 50% of its 24 attempts.
While BP’s Dolan Waldo led all scorers with 21 points, Ethan Dalhem led USC with 16 points. He also pitched in 10 against North Hills.
The Panthers’ David Pantelis supplied 11 points in both victories. He added 18 in the win against Lincoln Park.
In a game where nine players contributed to the attack, Luke Gensler topped all scorers against Lincoln Park, firing in 26 points. He also had 11 against NH while Luke Banbury led with 13 points.
Holzer is pleased with USC’s 3-0 start, particularly during a season slowed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“While I think we need to be more consistent showing the ball, I like the way we are playing as a team and defensively,” he said. “We working hard on defense. We’re unselfish and playing well together.
“And it’s great these kids are getting to play. I am totally fine with it. Athletics for kids and adults is healthy and safe when protocols are followed. We all need to play for our mental health.”
Reynolds leads CV
Chartiers Valley is off to a 4-0 start and the Colts are obliged to Brayden Reynolds for the streak. He has surpassed the 30-point plateau in all four victories.
Reynolds scored 36 points in CV’s 82-68 victory over Bishop Canevin and added 33 in a 66-63 win over Fox Chapel. He totaled 31 points in a 75-63 win for the Colts in their section opener against West Allegheny. Garrett Alauzen and Carter followed with 14 and 11 points, respectively.
Reynolds surpassed the 1,000-point milestone for his career when the junior exploded for 34 points, including the game-winning score, in a 64-62 overtime victory Jan. 13 over Lincoln Park
CV’s Carter Mastovich and Anthony Mackey followed that performance with 12 and 10 points against Lincoln Park.
Mackey scored 17 points and Alauzen had 16 to join Reynolds in double figures against Bishop Canevin.
CV head coach Brandon Sensor is pleased with his team’s start.
“I’m happy with where we are,” he said. “I think we’re scoring the ball well, doing a good job on offense by spreading the court, opening up gaps and moving the ball. We are finding the open man and scoring outside and at the rim. Defense has been great in spurts.”
Yet there is room for improvement, Sensor said.
“I do think we still have a lot of improving to do if we want to reach our potential and really compete at the end of the season,” he said. “We have a close team filled with good kids so I do think we will keep improving as we go. It is great and fun to improve while you’re winning, and we hope we can continue that.”
Mt. Lebanon opened Section 2, 6A action with a 58-51 win over Baldwin before topping Peters Township, 63-53.