No. 2 Upper St. Clair girls use 3-point barrage to sink No. 3 Bethel Park
Thursday, February 18, 2021 | 11:16 PM
Tied at the end of three quarters, Upper St. Clair finally came up with a way to score against a suffocating Bethel Park defense.
Shoot over it.
The Panthers hit four 3-pointers in the final quarter, including on three straight possessions midway through the fourth that turned a one-point deficit into an eight-point lead and eventually, a 50-42 victory.
The win is their 11th straight and keeps the Panthers undefeated in Section 2-6A girls basketball. It also all but secures the No. 2 seed behind undefeated and defending champion North Allegheny in the upcoming WPIAL 6A playoffs.
“That’s a really good team over there,” Upper St. Clair coach Pete Serio said of his vanquished opponent. “This has been a special year. Different kids are stepping up, and I’m just proud of the way we played down the stretch.”
After a back-and-fourth first quarter, the Black Hawks opened up a lead on a 7-2 run before the Panthers closed the half with nine straight points to go up by six at intermission.
In a game of runs for both teams, the final one was a dagger delivered by Upper St. Clair.
With Bethel Park leading 35-34, the Panthers delivered 3-pointers on three straight possessions by three players.
Sophomore Katelyn Robbins, senior Alexandra Prunzik and juniors Molly James and Paige Dellicarri all delivered behind the arc in the fourth quarter in what turned out to be the knockout blow of host Bethel Park.
“It’s funny how when one makes it, the hoop gets a little bigger, doesn’t it?” Serio said.
What was unique about USC pouring in 3-pointers on Bethel Park in the fourth quarter is that for most of the third quarter, the Panthers offense could barely manage a drizzle.
Trailing 27-21 at the half, the Black Hawks scored the first nine points of the third quarter. The Panthers trailed by four before a James bucket with 1:04 left ended a 10-0 run for Bethel Park and produced Upper St. Clair’s first points of the third quarter.
“We definitely didn’t capitalize on the solid defensive effort we came out with in the second half by making it count on the offensive end,” Bethel Park coach Jonna Burke said. “There were too many empty trips for us.”
The Black Hawks’ defensive pressure forced 22 Panthers turnovers, but Serio felt it was his team’s defense that helped them come away with the victory.
“All we wanted to do all night was make them take contested shots,” he said. “If they make it, they make it. (Olivia) Westphal is so good; she’s going to make contested shots. Let’s not make it easy for them.”
Despite not hitting a 3-pointer all night, Westphal, a Duquesne recruit, scored 21 points to lead all scorers.
“We shot a horrible percentage (Thursday),” Burke said. We were 1 for 17 from the 3-point line. Give them credit for hitting those three 3s in a row and kind of taking the wind out of our sails.”
Bethel Park had a five-game win streak snapped, falling to 3-2 in the section and 11-3 overall.
The win completes a season sweep of their Route 19 neighbors for the Panthers, who beat Bethel Park last month, 49-47.
“They are a very good team,” Burke said. “They play with discipline and unselfishness. Credit Coach Serio for the tremendous job he’s done with his team despite the injuries they’ve been dealt.”
The Panthers are now 6-0 in the section and 12-1 overall. Neither Upper St. Clair nor Bethel Park will play Mt. Lebanon this season because of the Blue Devils’ mask policy.
Robbins and James led USC with 15 points each.
Based on a surprise playoff run a year ago with a very young team, USC had high expectations this season. They are 12-1 and looking strong. However, the regular season hasn’t gone as planned for Serio and the Panthers, who have had to deal with plenty of key injuries. Yet, they keep producing win after win after win.
“These kids share the basketball. They really do,” he said. “It’s kind of a special year for us with everything that has gone on and the way these kids if stepped up. They look at it like it’s all of us together. They just play so well together.”
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