Upper St. Clair boys hold off host Bethel Park in Section 2-6A win
By: Don Rebel
Friday, January 11, 2019 | 10:45 PM
Upper St. Clair’s own personal house of horrors is no more, but not before one last horrific scare.
The No. 2-ranked Panthers improved to 4-0 in Section 2-6A and picked up lucky victory No. 13 as they remained undefeated for the season with a thrilling 68-64 victory over Bethel Park.
The Black Hawks remain winless in the section at 0-4 and fell to 8-5 overall.
The new gym at Bethel Park has been torture for rival Upper St. Clair. Since opening in 2012, the Panthers were 0-7.
“Finally,” Panthers coach Danny Holzer said afterward. “Our first win here.”
The Panthers started like they owned the house as they jumped out to a 15-11 lead after one quarter.
With 6:13 left in the second and the Black Hawks trailing 18-11, Bethel Park coach Josh Bears protested a foul call and was ejected.
Upper St. Clair senior Terrance Gensler hit six straight free throws to build the lead to 24-11.
The Panthers, playing with quickness and the confidence of an unbeaten team, built the lead to as many as 21 points before the Black Hawks chipped away and pulled to within 37-20 at the half.
“I was really proud of our kids after that first half,” Holzer said. “I told them we need to be the aggressor and have a chip on our shoulder and play with an edge.”
However, those things seemed to disappear in the second half for Upper St. Clair as Bethel Park turned up the half-court defense and forced mistakes and missed shots.
The Black Hawks started hitting shots in the second half, as well.
Bethel Park’s dynamic duo of senior Alex Mullen and junior Ryan Meis both averaging 19 points per game.
In the first two quarters, Mullen and Meis scored a combined nine points. The two, however, sparked the Black Hawks’ rally with 30 second-half points. Meis led Bethel Park with 23 points while Mullen added 16.
“We wanted to keep those two from driving to the rim and keep them shooting with pressure from the perimeter, and for the most part in the first half, we did that,” Holzer said.
Bethel Park outscored Upper St. Clair, 21-13, in the third as the Panthers’ lead shrunk to single digits.
The Black Hawks’ fast and furious style continued to pay off in the fourth quarter as they tied the game on two occasions before taking their first lead with Meis’ basket with under two minutes left at 57-56.
But that was followed quickly by a Terrance Gensler basket and foul the other way as the Panthers regained a lead they would not lose.
“When you have a big lead, you see that happen a lot at every level; its human nature that you relax,” Holzer said. “Bethel Park has a lot of character and you look up and the lead is 18, then 14 and then you start pressing.”
Gensler finished with 39 points, including all 13 USC points in the third quarter, and pulled down 12 rebounds.
“He’s such a good player,” Holzer said. “He seizes the moment. He can score off the dribble, he can score inside. His game has a lot of grit to it.”
Don Rebel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Don at email@example.com or via Twitter @TheDonRebel.