Mt. Lebanon weathers storm, drops rival Upper St. Clair

Monday, January 17, 2022 | 11:52 PM

Section 2-6A rivals Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair did not play at all last season due to mask policy.

This season, both teams were ranked in the Trib HSSN Top 5 heading into their Monday night showdown for first place.

Trailing the entire first half, Mt. Lebanon (6-0, 13-0) unmasked and began raining 3-pointers to take control on its way to a 44-37 road victory.

The win gives the Blue Devils a two-game lead in Section 2 over both Upper St. Clair (4-2, 11-3) and Bethel Park and keeps them undefeated on the season.

“We knew it was going to be tough coming in here,” Mt. Lebanon coach Dori Oldaker said. “They’re such a talented, well-coached team. They’re coming off two losses recently, and they are not used to losing, so I knew they would be ready for us. We just had to weather the storm.”

It was a near-perfect storm unleashed in the opening quarter by USC, as the Panthers jumped out to a 7-1 lead early and led after one quarter, 15-8.

However, the Blue Devils’ tenacious defense started to take control, holding the Panthers to only four points in the second quarter.

Upper St. Clair was still having success with its defense, a 2-3 zone that seemed to frustrate Mt. Lebanon in the first half as the Blue Devils struggled to shoot from the perimeter.

“We’ve actually been preparing for the zone,” Oldaker said. “We had an idea that’s what we were going to see and we’re just going to keep working at it.”

The game changed in the first two minutes of the third quarter when the Mt. Lebanon trio of junior Anna Streiff and seniors Brooke Collins and Reagan Murdoch hit 3-pointers on three straight possessions to turn a one-point deficit into an eight-point Blue Devils lead.

“We were so pumped for those three to knock down those shots,” Oldaker said. “Those were the exact same shots we couldn’t hit in the first half. We knew it just a matter of time.”

USC did a very good job slowing down St. Louis recruit Ashleigh Connor, who once again led the Blue Devils with 15 points, well below her average of 25 points per game.

“We didn’t have Ashleigh for a couple of games, and I think it actually helped us in the long run,” Oldaker said. “A lot of other kids had to step up and they sure did. She knows she can count on her teammates and she doesn’t have to run the show and score all the points. But she can sure play.”

Murdoch added 12 points for Mt. Lebanon.

Junior Mia Brown was the only Panthers player in double-figure scoring with 10 points.

After an 8-0 start of its own, Upper St. Clair has lost two straight and is 3-3 in its last six games.

Despite a two-game cushion for first place, Oldaker said this was not the final test and that there is still a lot of basketball left in the regular season.

“Nobody was going to be cutting nets down after a win (Monday),” she said. “This game does not define us, win or lose, but it does help with the confidence factor. We have things to work on and improve.”

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