UPPER ST. CLAIR, Pa. — The last time Upper St. Clair and Seneca Valley played was on January 19. Upper St. Clair won that game by a comfortable 19-point margin.
In Saturday’s rematch in the quarterfinals of the WPIAL Class-6A playoffs, it was anything but comfortable.
Despite a big early lead for Upper St. Clair, the visitors had a chance to take the lead in the final seconds when Caiden Oros made a move around a defender and took a layup, but the ball bounced off the rim.
USC rebounded and the Raiders had to foul. The look on Oros’ face was a look that only an athlete would understand. Their season was about to be over, with Upper St. Clair securing a 72-70 victory and advancing to the WPIAL semifinals.
Connor Lyczek had scored to cut the Upper St. Clair lead to four points with less than a minute remaining. Seneca Valley then fouled David Pantelis, who made one of two. Luke Dawson came down the floor for the Raiders and swished a pull-up jumper to make it 71-70
“We had all the momentum,” Seneca Valley assistant coach Joe Frank said. The Raiders student section began chanting, “I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win.”
After another SV fouls, Upper St. Clair’s Luke Banbury made his first free throw, but he missed also the second. The Raiders rebounded and sprinted down with 20 seconds left, setting up Oros’ last-second heave.
“We missed some free throws at the end, but we still won,” Upper St. Clair coach Danny Holzer said. “We’re going to have to work on that. But I’m so proud of these guys. We weren’t settling for threes and taking risks. We wanted to make plays.”
Pantelis was a big reason for USC’s big early lead. He was on fire, scoring 10 points early on. The Panthers found themselves up by five after eight minutes
Then came on Banbury. The senior forward posted up time after time and drove strongly to the hoop.
“I liked the matchups I had tonight,” Banbury said. “I just noticed who was guarding me. If they were a bigger or smaller guy, then that would dictate what I’d try to do.”
Banbury scored, is what he did. He finished the half with 14 points and the Panthers took a 42-32 lead at the break.
“He rebounds like Dennis Rodman,” Holzer said. “He still lifts three days a week during the season. He works super hard.”
The third quarter had a similar feel as Banbury kept scoring, on his way to a career high 30 points, but Lyczek really turned it on for Seneca Valley to lead the Raiders back into the game.
“Connor is a beast,” Frank said. “He kept pulling the same move and it worked 80% of the time.”
Lyczek’s 29-point effort and a 60% night shooting as a team was just what the Raiders needed, if they wanted to take down the top seed in Class-6A.
“We watched film on him, and we still couldn’t stop him,” Holzer said. “We give him a ton of credit. That whole team fought hard and worked their tail off.”
Head coach Kevin Trost of Seneca Valley has been out due to undisclosed reasons.
“This team took on his personality in the game,” Frank said. “We had the momentum, but we just ran out of time.”
SV’s Cole Brooks ended his season with 499 points (fifth in the WPIAL), and Connor Lyczek finished with 380 points.
Upper St. Clair improves to 18-1 on the year and will face No. 5 seed Butler in the semifinal.
Stay tuned for more WPIAL playoff basketball coverage on Pittsburgh Sports Now.