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Upper St. Clair Tightens Section Title Race with Win Over Mt. Lebanon



UPPER ST. CLAIR, Pa. – With Mt. Lebanon looking to close in on the Class 6A section 2 title, the Blue Devils had to get past rival Upper St. Clair on the road. Thanks to a critical and-one play by Devin Hall late in the fourth quarter, the Panthers handed the Blue Devils their first loss in section play, 37-36.

As the clock wore down in the fourth quarter, Mt. Lebanon held a slim two-point lead. Then, Hall motored his way down the lane, finished with a bucket and was fouled. After sinking the foul shot, Upper St. Clair was on its way to victory.

“Coach called the right play and I capitalized on it,” Hall said on his and-one play.

Mt. Lebanon had one final opportunity after a timeout as Michael Pfeuffer drove to the hoop and threw one up that would not go. The rebound came down right into the hands of Tanner Donati who put it back up, but also could not get it to fall. Even with some physicality down to the end, the refs did not call a foul on either shot as the Panthers held on.

Going into the final possession after the timeout, Hall and his teammates knew what they had to do to clinch the victory.

“It’s the last couple seconds, it’s just about executing the defensive plays,” Hall said.

In a low-scoring affair, Hall led all scorers with 14 points. His physicality and ability to finish were the difference makers in the win.

“[Hall] was tremendous tonight,” Holzer said. “We knew he had this in him. He took over the fourth quarter. He’s a really talented and gifted offensive player.

The one-point victory comes after Mt. Lebanon took care of the Panthers in double overtime earlier this season on its home court. This time, it was Upper St. Clair – fueled by the home crowd and student section – that took care of business.

“It means a lot to our team,” head coach Danny Holzer said. “Us and Mt. Lebanon are two really good programs, and we have a lot of respect for one another, but it’s always great to beat them.

While the game came down to the wire once again between these two rivals, Mt. Lebanon opened the game on a 10-1 run. In the second quarter, Upper St. Clair responded with its own 12-0 run. From there, it was a tight game until the end.

“I told those guys to stay the course,” Holzer said. “For as bad as it seemed, we were only down nine. They really hurt us on the offensive boards in the first quarter. Once we settled down and did a better job defensive rebounding, we were able to do some things.”

Adding to Hall’s 14 points, Julian Dahlem factored in with seven points, along with a six-point night from senior Matthew Gaither. For Mt. Lebanon, Nate Girod finished with nine points – all from beyond the arc – and he was joined by Brody Barber who also scored nine on the evening.

With the win, Upper St. Clair (12-8, 7-1) moves back into contention for the section title as both Mt. Lebanon (13-6, 7-1) have two more games remaining.

“It means a lot this time of year because now we have a chance to share the section with them,” Holzer said. “We both have two games to go, but now we are in a position to control our destiny until the end.”

Now, Upper St. Clair will focus on a road test with Canon-McMillan this Tuesday. Mt. Lebanon will complete its five-game road trip with a matchup against Norwin also on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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