Mt. Lebanon girls top Bethel Park to set up showdown with Upper St. Clair

Saturday, February 26, 2022 | 6:23 PM

During the regular season, Mt. Lebanon handled Bethel Park twice.

The top-seeded Blue Devils (22-1) didn’t take those results for granted, though, as they met their neighbors again in Saturday’s WPIAL Class 6A girls basketball semifinals, but ended with near the same result.

Mt. Lebanon defeated the Black Hawks, 52-33, at the UPMC Events Center at Robert Morris to advance to the championship game against Upper St. Clair on Friday.

The game was tied 7-7 after the first eight minutes and Bethel Park (12-10) scored the first bucket of the second quarter, but after that, it was all Mt. Lebanon, which scored 12 of the next 13 points and outscored Bethel Park 17-6 in the second quarter en route to running away with the contest.

“We did not take them lightly at all,” said Mt. Lebanon coach Dori Oldaker. “It was one of our focuses that we had to take care of the boards and we did it. We’ve been knocking on the door for a few years, so it’s nice to get (back to the championship).”

The win came in large part due to a dominant performance on the glass from multiple players, but especially seniors Ashleigh Connor, Brooke Collins and Reagan Murdoch.

Connor finished the game with a game-high 16 points.

“She kept plugging away and I thought she did a phenomenal job rebounding on the boards,” said Oldaker. “It’s not all offense from her.”

Murdoch chipped in 10, as did Collins, while Payton Collins scored nine and Ava Dziubek poured in seven off the bench.

Oldaker highlighted the lock-down defense of Gina Smith on top of the efforts that show in the box score.

The Black Hawks were led by Emma Dziezgowski, who scored 11 points. She was one of seven Bethel Park players to score.

“Their defense really takes you out of anything you try and do offensively and they just crushed on the rebounds,” said Black Hawks coach Samantha Loadman. “They are (relentless). They just keep going after it and all five crash hard.”

The Black Hawks will play on in the PIAA playoffs. Loadman said she’ll try to keep the team motivated and get back to work in preparation for it, while also congratulating the efforts of the Blue Devils.

Mt. Lebanon will get a third crack at Upper St. Clair in the title game. The Panthers defeated North Allegheny to clinch their spot in Friday night’s Class 6A girls title game at the Petersen Events Center.

It’s one Oldaker said the team will prepare its best for — after celebating Saturday’s win.

“The seniors have gone through the ringer for the last few years. They wanted it,” said Oldaker. “(We’re) going to enjoy this win. We’ll see another section foe in the championship. We’ll get back to work on Monday.”

The Panthers handed the Blue Devils their only loss of the 2021-22 campaign in the final regular season game of the year, 58-53. Mt. Lebanon beat Upper St. Clair, 44-37, in the first meeting between the two.

“They’re loaded, they’re talented, they’re well coached and we’re going to try to prepare our best,” said Oldaker.

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