Tanner O'Grady

Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

Tanner O’Grady of Upper St. Clair maneuvers his way to the basket despite being heavily defended. O’Grady and his Panthers earned the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL Class 6A boys basketball tournament. They will host their first-round playoff game at 6 p.m. March 2.

Upper St. Clair and Chartiers Valley have each earned No. 1 seeds for the upcoming WPIAL boys basketball playoffs.

The Panthers were 16-1 overall heading into their final regular season game, against the Colts, who sported a 19-2 record.

CV head coach Brandon Sensor said earning the top seeds in the tournament doesn’t guarantee success.

“It’s a symbolic sign that our hard work and improvement is paying off,” Sensor said. “At the end of the day though, its just a number. There are a lot of very good teams in Class 5A.”

Upper St. Clair head coach Dan Holzer agreed with that sentiment.

”It signifies we have had a good regular season and for that we are proud,” he said of the No. 1 seeding. “It means nothing though. When it’s a one-and-done tournament, everybody is going to be tough. You can’t take anything for granted.”

The Panthers will host their first-round playoff game at 6 p.m. March 2. They will play the winner of the Canon-McMillan at Greensburg Salem contest played Feb. 27. Both teams were winless heading into their final two regular season games last week.

The Panthers’ previous loss was a 72-70 decision to Fox Chapel, which earned the No. 2 seed. The Foxes will host No. 15 Bethel Park at 6 p.m. March 2.

Consistency on offense and defense will determine USC’s success in the tournament. The Panthers have one of the top defenses in the league, surrendering 51.5 points per game. They average 71.9 points with Luke Gensler, David Pantelis, Luke Banbury and Ethan Dahlem regularly scoring in double figures.

Porter Rauch joined the foursome in double digits recently, tossing in 10 during a 66-45 win against Montour on senior night, Feb. 24.

“We have to continue to play hard-nosed, smart defense and we have to shoot the ball well,” said Holzer. “At this point in the season, everybody is good.”

Sensor said there are about eight Class 5A teams that are really good and another two or three that could upset some of those.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” he predicted.

The Colts kickoff action March 3 when they host host the winner of the play-in game between Hampton and McKeesport. Tip-off is at 6 p.m.

“If we continue getting better and playing hard, then we can have some success in the tournament,” Sensor said.

The Colts have won six WPIAL titles in school history, the last in 2015.

To capture the 2021 championship Sensor pointed to three things beyond the 25.5 scoring average of Brayden Reynolds.

The Colts will rely on rebounding and defense. In a 68-52 win Feb. 24, the Colts limited McDowell to .83 points per possession and a 42% efficiency in field goals.

“We can’t rely on offense,” Sensor said. “Teams that win, play great defense and rebound. They also stick together and have fun.

“We are going to face adversity,” he added. “We just have to have each other’s backs and have a ‘next play’ mentality. We have to play loose, enjoy each other and play the game we love.”

Lebo hosts SV

A youthful Mt. Lebanon improves with each outing. Though 9-8 overall, the Blue Devils rank No. 1 in defense in Class 6A, allowing a little more than 50 points per game. The Blue Devils also were undefeated at 5-0 in Section 2 and are coming off a 55-52 win against Bishop Canevin, the No. 1 seed in the Class A tournament.

Lebo and USC did not meet for a section game because they were not permitted to play each other because of differing mask-regulations. The rivals could face each other in the quarterfinals set for 6 p.m. March 5.

The Blue Devils would have to win their first-round playoff game first. They host Seneca Valley at 6 p.m. March 3.

“They have good wins, but I don’t know much more about them,” said Lebo head coach Joe David.

“I’m mostly concerned about us and trying to get better as a team,” he continued. “I’m looking forward to these guys playing and getting this thing underway. With all that’s happened with the pandemic, we are just happy to be here.”

The Blue Devils boasts one of the WPIAL’s leading scorers in Jake Reinke, who averages 17.7 points per game. There are only a few holdovers, most notably in Evan Sentner and Zach D’Alessandro, from last year’s Lebo team that reached the district finals and saw their season cut short because COVID-19 canceled the remainder of the PIAA playoffs.

“I think we are that team nobody wants to play,” David said, “because if we shoot the ball well we can beat anybody on any given night. We don’t have a significant inside presence and we are young and make mistakes but each game we improve and learn from our mistakes. So maybe we can surprise some people.”

PT visits P-R

Under first-year coach Joe Urmann, Peters Township is also looking to shake things up in the tournament. The Indians, who are seeded No. 11, travel to No. 6 Pine-Richland for a 6 p.m. tip-off March 2.

“The competition in 6A is tough,” Urmann said. “I think there are a lot of teams capable of making a run, including us.”

The Indians are led by Gavin Cote, who is averaging 15 points per game. Pat McDonnell cleans the glass for 5.1 rebounds a game. He also dishes up 3.4 assists an outing.

“Pine is a very good team,” Urmann said. “They play hard and they play together. They do the little things well. For us to be successful against them, we need to execute offensively and limit their transition opportunities.”

South Fayette entered the Class 5A playoffs as the No. 11 seed. The Lions opened tournament action with a play-in game Feb. 27 at Woodland Hills.

The winner visits No. 6 Penn Hills for a 6 p.m. tip March 3.

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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