Quick start allows Mt. Lebanon to turn the lights out on Upper St. Clair

Tuesday, January 14, 2020 | 10:39 PM

In the third quarter of the Upper St. Clair-Mt. Lebanon game Tuesday night, some of the lights went out at Mt. Lebanon. After play was stopped, the gym went dark for a few moments before the lights were restored and play resumed.

Ironic, because once the game ended, the plug was pulled on the visiting Panthers’ 10-game win streak.

Mt. Lebanon jumped out to a 21-10 lead after one quarter and never trailed in beating Upper St. Clair, 63-56.

“I think we made some shots, and I thought we defended very well,” Mt. Lebanon coach Joey David said about his team’s hot start. “They’re a good basketball team. They’re well coached and they have good players, and we’re fortunate to win that game.”

Jake Hoffman led the way for Mt. Lebanon with 21 points, with 14 coming in the first half.

“Hoffman was really good for them tonight,” Upper St. Clair coach Danny Holzer said.

“We just really had good ball movement,” Hoffman said of the Blue Devils’ good start in which he had 10 opening-quarter points. “I think we held them to 10 points, so we really did a good job on defense.”

Down 11 after the first quarter, Upper St. Clair came out flying to start the second. The Panthers’ 10-0 run to start the quarter pulled them to within one point at 22-21, but it was the closest they would get the rest of the game.

“We didn’t do a very good job on the defensive boards,” David said about the slow start to the second quarter. “We didn’t execute our gameplan as far as knowing where (Luke) Gensler was, and when he was free, he hit some big shots.”

Despite being held in check for some of the game by the Mt. Lebanon defense, USC junior Luke Gensler led all scorers with 22 points.

Leading by one, Mt. Lebanon found its offense and ended the first half on a 10-4 run to lead 31-24 at the break.

The lights went out in the third quarter for Upper St. Clair, as Mt. Lebanon extended its lead to 12 points heading into the fourth quarter.

“We missed too many layups — 14 of them,” Holzer said. “Credit them for battling the rim. They simply played better than us.”

The Panthers battled but could not make a serious run as the Blue Devils did a great job executing their four-corner offense and milking the clock in the final eight minutes.

Mt. Lebanon converted only 9 of 16 from the free throw line, a statistic that caught David’s attention afterward.

“We make free throws and it’s a double-digit game,” he said. “We were fortunate to be up enough that it didn’t make much of a difference.”

It was only the second loss of the season for Upper St. Clair, which fell to 4-1 in Section 2-6A, 12-2 overall.

Mt. Lebanon ends the first half of section play a perfect 5-0 and winners of five straight to improve to 11-3 overall.

The senior Hoffman knows what his team needs to do to keep it going in the second half and beyond.

“Keep practicing hard, keep our energy and make sure we win these games down the stretch,” he said. “We have that confidence that the guys on the floor can get it done.”

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