Back from injury, Josh Russell’s 3-pointers lift USC over Allderdice in PIAA 1st round

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Saturday, March 7, 2020 | 7:19 PM


Upper St. Clair’s unofficial team motto was: “Let’s get Russ in uniform one more time.”

After senior Josh Russell broke his foot in January, his USC teammates wanted their basketball season to last long enough so he could return to the court.

On Saturday, he repaid the favor and earned them all another game.

In his third game back from surgery, Russell came off the bench and made three first-quarter 3-pointers as Upper St. Clair defeated Allderdice, 63-45, in a PIAA Class 6A first-round game at Fox Chapel.

Russell scored 13 points with four 3s.

Allderdice (19-8) spent the second and third quarters trying to catch up, an effort that took a toll on the Dragons.

“I didn’t think I’d be able to play a few weeks ago,” Russell said. “To be a factor in winning a state playoff game is just incredible. I’ll never forget this game.”

Upper St. Clair (21-4) advances to rematch WPIAL champion Butler on Wednesday at a site and time to be announced.

Russell’s string of 3-pointers gave Upper St. Clair an early lead it never lost. After his third 3, the Panthers were ahead 19-9 near the 2-minute mark of the first quarter.

He went 3 for 4 from the arc in the first 8 minutes.

“He saved us, no question,” USC coach Danny Holzer said. “To me, that’s the difference in the game. That’s what we were missing during the season.”

Allderdice’s only lead was 2-0. The City League runner-up closed to within a point in the third quarter after a 3-pointer by Cam Butcher, but USC immediately pulled away with an 11-2 run.

Upper St. Clair soon led 37-27 after consecutive layups by USC’s Luke Gensler and Andrew Casey, each coming after a steal at the other end. Gensler scored 13 points and Casey added 11, all in the second half.

Tony Henderson led Allderdice with 13 points. The Dragons were typically a solid 3-point shooting team this season but went 5 for 23 from the arc against USC.

“You can’t come back against a really good team, especially not a team that’s as aggressive as Upper St. Clair,” Allderdice coach Devin Crummie said. “Our hope was that we could be even or a little bit ahead early and withstand their runs. That certainly didn’t happen.”

Upper St. Clair led 21-14 after the first quarter and 26-20 at half.

The Panthers lost Russell during an early January game at Canon-McMillan. He was a starter prior to the injury, which required surgery to insert a screw. This was the second time in two years Russell missed a large part of his season.

“I am just so happy for him,” said Holzer, who hugged Russell as he left the court in the final minute. “When he was a junior, he hurt his knee and missed most of the season. And then this year he broke his foot. He thought his career was over because he got a pin put in it, but amazingly the healing process was faster.”

Russell played sparingly in the WPIAL semifinals and finals against Pine-Richland and Butler. However, against Allderdice, Holzer called on him early after Casey drew two first-quarter fouls.

Upper St. Clair had 10 days off between games, which gave Russell time to rest and get ready. He finished 4 for 7 from the arc.

“I was really pumped to see them go in,” Russell said. “My teammates found me when I was open. Give credit to them. Just watching them go in was an incredible feeling.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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