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Upper St. Clair Claims Section Title Outright with Win Over Baldwin



UPPER ST. CLAIR — Thirty-two minutes separated Upper St. Clair from claiming yet another section title, with this one having more meaning than the last two. With extra time needed and a pesky Baldwin Highlanders team standing in its way, Upper St. Clair willed its way back after trailing for a majority of the contest to beat Baldwin, 66-64 in overtime to clinch the outright Class 6A Section 2 title.

Entering the overtime period, USC started with the ball and drained nearly a minute and a half off the board. Finally, Cody Marn was located all alone in the paint and broke the ice in the extra frame for USC and with a few free throws needed, the Panthers were on their way to victory.

With the game bouncing back-and-forth, head coach Danny Holzer knew his team needed overtime to reset in order to track down the section title.

“We were pretty confident that we could do well in overtime and if we got the lead, we felt good,” he said.

The section title marks the Panthers third straight crown, however, this one has a additional meaning after sharing the last two with Mt. Lebanon.

“It means a lot,” Marn said. “With this win, [Mt. Lebanon] doesn’t share the title with us. It’s a big win and we get the section to ourselves.”

Holzer shared the same sentiment with his players with another section race coming down to the wire.

“These kids really work hard and fight,” he said. “We knew we had a pretty good team this year, but section play was a battle the whole way through. We had so many close games and it means a lot when you win three sections in a row in this section.”

In order to reach that title, Baldwin (12-9, 5-5) posed a threat to the USC’s (14-8, 9-1) section hopes and it was evident throughout the game. Nate Wesling was a one-man wrecking crew in the first quarter as his hustle led to several turnovers and eight points for the sophomore as he would finish with 14 after it was all said and done.

Matt Schenk also became a problem for USC as Baldwin continually found him down low as he posted 10 points in the first half on the way to 12 total on the evening as the Highlanders took an eight-point lead into halftime.

Coming out of the locker room, USC needed a spark to close the gap, but the Highlanders continued to execute with AJ Cherico and James Wesling factoring in and providing the energy.

“We were playing catch up the whole game,” Holzer said.

As the Panthers started to narrow the deficit, junior Devin Hall started to pour it on. Hall had to scoring touch in the third quarter as he had 13 of the 19 Panthers points in the quarter. Hall finished the game with 22.

“He’s been tremendous over the past couple of weeks,” Holzer said. “He’s a really talented kid, but most important is a team player and he’s second on the team in assists.”

Hall’s team play took over in the fourth quarter as the Panthers took their first lead since the first quarter as a driving hall dropped it off to Marn who connected and was fouled on the play. After missing the free throw, Marn was about to grab the rebound a put it back up for a four-point swing for the Panthers.

Marn acknowledged how important Hall and his teammates were during the game to help contribute to his eight points.

“My teammates were looking, and they were finding me,” Marn said. “I was getting some quick layups and all of them were great passes by my teammates.”

While Marn was not much of a factor in the beginning of the game, 6-foot-4 forward became USC’s sparkplug down the stretch.

“We felt we needed a little more speed, but some size at the rim,” Holzer said. “He hasn’t played much this year, but I tell the kids all the time that when your time comes to be ready. and this game called for him, and he stepped up.”

USC saw two others reach double figures as Nick Sukernek dropped 15 and Matthew Gaither finished with 14. James Wesling led the Highlanders with 24 points.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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