Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Team of the Week for March 4, 2024

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Monday, March 4, 2024 | 8:49 PM


Trib HSSN boys basketball team of the week: Upper St. Clair Panthers

Coach: Danny Holzer (29th season)

Record: 8-2 in Section 2-6A, 20-5 overall

#Earned: A hard-fought quarterfinal victory over Butler by seven points sent Upper St. Clair back to the semifinals last Tuesday to face the team that ousted them in the 2023 final four, defending district champion Central Catholic. The Panthers jumped out early and led by seven points after one quarter and by 11 points at halftime, then outscored the Vikings in the second half 33-29 to avenge last winter’s playoff loss and advance to the finals, 61-46. In the title game at the Petersen Events Center, USC battled rival Baldwin after the two split their regular season meetings. Upper St. Clair came out flying, shooting 70% from the field in the opening quarter, building a seven-point lead. Leading by eight points at the half, the Panthers outscored the Highlanders 15-6 in the third quarter and never looked back, winning the school’s fourth WPIAL basketball championship, 64-41. The USC defense did a great job limiting Baldwin’s top playoff scorer. Highlanders junior Nate Wesling had averaged 22 points per game in two playoff victories, but was held to only seven points.

Scoring stars: Following a huge fourth quarter in the quarterfinal win over Butler, Upper St. Clair senior Christian Ito continued his hot scoring streak in the final four. He led the Panthers with 17 points while fellow senior Brett Meinert added 14 points in the semifinals victory over Central Catholic. Then in the 6A title game against Baldwin, the big man led the way to gold for USC. Tyler Robbins, a 6-foot-9 junior, was 9 of 11 shooting from the field and scored a game-high 22 points while Meinert hit three 3-pointers and six free throws to add 19 points as the Panthers earned their fourth district basketball crown and second in five years with a 23-point triumph over the Highlanders.

Last year: Upper St. Clair won the Section 2-6A championship last year with a 9-1 record, one game ahead of runner-up Mt. Lebanon. The Panthers finished the regular season with a five-game winning streak, their longest of the winter. Following a quarterfinal win over Seneca Valley at home, USC lost to eventual district champion Central Catholic in the semifinals, 65-41. The Panthers earned a state playoff berth with a win over rival Mt. Lebanon in the 6A consolation game, 55-54; however, their stay in the PIAA postseason only lasted one game as they fell big at State College, 72-42.

Remember when: This is the fourth WPIAL boys basketball championship for Upper St. Clair and their second title in four years. The previous Panthers title came in 2021 when they won the 6A championship game played at Peters Township, defeating Pine-Richland, 56-53. The brother of current junior guard Julian Dahlem led the black and red as Ethan Dahlem scored 16 points. Nearly two decades ago, USC knocked off rival Mt. Lebanon in the 2005 WPIAL 4A title game, 57-55, as former NFL star Sean Lee led the Panthers with 20 points and a big block as time ran out. The school’s first boys basketball district championship banner was raised in Danny Holzer’s second year as head coach as Upper St. Clair won the battle of the Panthers, beating Franklin Regional in the 1996 4A finals, 60-53, one day after the USC girls basketball team also won a WPIAL title by defeating Oakland Catholic.

2024 Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Teams of the Week

Week 8 – Baldwin Highlanders

Week 7 – Woodland Hills Wolverines

Week 6 – Beaver Bobcats

Week 5 – Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils

Week 4 – South Allegheny Gladiators

Week 3 – Central Catholic Vikings

Week 2 – Gateway Gators

Week 1 – Greensburg Central Catholic Centurions

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