Bryce Epps sparks South Allegheny past West Mifflin with half-court shot

Saturday, February 4, 2023 | 12:09 AM

At halftime, West Mifflin held a half-court shot contest for fans in which the winner would receive half of the pot.

South Allegheny senior Bryce Epps beat them to the punch.

The most prolific scorer in Gladiators program history hit a half-court shot at the buzzer at the end of the first quarter, putting South Allegheny up for good on its way to a 66-46 Section 4-4A victory.

“He’s our guy. Everyone knows that,” South Allegheny coach Tony DiCenzo said. “We go as he goes. I think he had 29, 30 points (Friday) and we needed that. The two games we lost, he was about 10 (points) shy of his average. I know he was motivated.”

Epps hit five 3-pointers in the first half, none bigger than his long-distance bomb that ended the opening quarter. Epps scored a game-high 29 points.

“He impacts the game in every way,” DiCenzo said. “He’s played in a lot of games and in a lot of important games for us. We lean on his leadership, and he sets the tone for the rest of the guys, and they follow his lead. His game speaks for itself.”

Epps first-quarter buzzer beater put the Gladiators up 16-15 after a first quarter in which the Titans seemed to have the better of the play.

However, the momentum definitely swung on that shot as South Allegheny outscored West Mifflin, 38-16, in the second and third quarters combined.

Epps hit on all five of his 3-pointers in the first half and had 19 points by intermission. He added 10 more points to his total in the second half as the Gladiators pulled away to victory.

A pair of juniors also scored in double figures for South Allegheny. Jeston Beatty had 14 points and Michael Michalski added 12 for SA.

While Epps is definitely the straw that stirs the drink for the Gladiators, there are some other players adding their own tasty ingredients.

“That’s what makes us difficult to defend,” DiCenzo said. “Everybody is going to pay a lot of attention to Bryce as they should, but we have guys around him that are very capable and confident scorers. We don’t lose much when the ball leaves his hands. We have a nice complement around him.”

Senior Jordan Lucas-Johnson led West Mifflin (4-3, 9-8) with 15 points. The Titans have a one game lead over both Avonworth and Montour for third place. A win for WM on Tuesday at East Allegheny would clinch a playoff berth.

The win keeps South Allegheny (7-1, 16-2) tied for first place in the Section 4-4A with Quaker Valley. The Gladiators were not caught looking ahead as they play back-to-back games against reigning WPIAL champions.

SA faces Laurel Highlands in the Slammin’ at Sewickley Academy event on Saturday before traveling to Quaker Valley on Tuesday for a section title game against the Quakers.

“We would have signed up for that for sure at the beginning of the season,” DiCenzo said. “(Quaker Valley is) a great program. We beat them pretty handily at our place, and I know they aren’t going to sit back and wait for that to happen again. We’re going to get their best punch.”

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