After a gritty 26-point effort, Bethel Park senior Justin Meis still surmised that he’s probably not the best basketball player on the team or even in his own family.
That could be his brother Ryan, a sophomore.
But against section rival Upper St. Clair, the older brother’s cut-to-the-basket style was exactly what Bethel Park needed to solve an aggressive man-to-man defense. Meis scored 10 of his Black Hawks’ first 12 points and later kept them in the lead with driving fourth-quarter layups to defeat host USC, 66-60.
“We really wanted to spread the floor and look to slip screens,” Bethel Park coach Josh Bears said. “Justin, in my 14 years as a head coach, probably moves better without the ball than maybe any other player I’ve ever coached.”
The 6-foot-3 guard scored 12 points in the fourth quarter as Upper St. Clair tried to close the gap. Bethel Park led by 10 points early in the fourth but saw it narrow to four.
“I kept looking up at the scoreboard,” Meis said. “Up eight, up five, up three, back and forth. … But we just stayed together and told ourselves we’re in this game, we’re good.”
With less than 3 minutes left, Meis delivered a driving layup and added two free throws a few seconds later to double Bethel Park’s lead from four points to eight.
He’d scored consecutive layups just two minutes earlier.
“We weren’t tough enough on defense when we needed a stop,” USC coach Danny Holzer said. “They made a ton of layups. They hit threes, but it was the layups that killed us. They just beat us to the basket.”
The victory keeps Bethel Park (6-4, 2-1) near the top of Section 2 in Class 6A behind only Mt. Lebanon (2-0) and tied with Connellsville (2-1). USC falls to 5-5 overall, 1-2 in section.
Bethel Park trailed 14-12 after the first quarter, but charged back to lead 29-22 at half and 47-39 after three.
Junior forward Tanner Gensler led USC with 17 points off the bench, including 11 in the fourth quarter, and senior guard Kyle Meinert scored 14. But the Panthers again struggled from the perimeter and made just 2 of 14 attempts from 3-point range.
“We’re not shooting them well enough,” Holzer said. “We have younger guys that are so we may be making some changes, which is a hard thing because a lot of our seniors are good kids. We’ll see.”
Ryan Meis added 11 points for Bethel Park including a go-ahead 3-pointer early in the second quarter. The 6-foot sophomore is Bethel’s point guard and a spot-up shooter who drew extra attention from USC’s pressing defense.
“He’s more of a basketball player, I think I’m more of an athlete,” said Justin Meis, an Eastern Michigan baseball recruit. “He has more moves, so I just rely on him to get me the ball.”
Their combination clicked early against USC. Justin Meis had already scored his 10th point with 2:30 left in the first quarter.
“Those two complement each other so well,” Bears said. “They’ve grown up playing together, obviously. Ryan has always been the point guard and Justin has been the guy who moves well without the ball. They always tend to know where each other are. It’s nice because you can’t take them both away.”
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .