What to watch for in WPIAL sports on Jan. 9, 2024: South Hills boys basketball rivals meet again

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Monday, January 8, 2024 | 6:08 PM


It may not be at the level of Mike Tomlin vs. John Harbaugh in the NFL when it comes to longtime rival coaches, but as far as district boys basketball is concerned, it doesn’t get much better than Joe David vs. Danny Holzer.

The two legendary coaches go head to head again Tuesday with first place up for grabs in Section 2-6A when Mt. Lebanon visits Upper St. Clair.

Now in his 23rd season as head coach of the Blue Devils, David recently picked up a milestone victory. In a game at the Sunshine State Explosion tournament in Coconut Creek, Fla., Mt. Lebanon defeated Bishop Snyder (Fla.) for victory No. 400 for David at Lebo.

He has since picked up two more wins and hopes to snag win No. 403 against his alma mater USC.

Meanwhile, Holzer is in his 29th season as Upper St. Clair boys basketball coach and is now 18 victories away from 500 career wins.

The two have locked horns at least twice a season for all but the three years this century — 2000 and 2001 before Davis was hired and in 2021 when the duo did not play each other due to covid-19 and mask-related issues.

David and Holzer have led the Blue Devils and Panthers to three WPIAL championships.

The two South Hills powers have locked horns in each of the last two postseasons with Mt. Lebanon defeating Upper St. Clair in the 2022 6A quarterfinals, 58-53, while last winter, the Panthers beat the Blue Devils in a 6A consolation game, 55-54, keeping Lebo from qualifying for the PIAA playoffs.

The most famous postseason game was when the two played for WPIAL gold in the 2005 Quad-A championship game with USC edging Lebo, 57-55.

The fact that Mt. Lebanon (10-1) and Upper St. Clair (8-3) are both 2-0 in the section and tied for first place should surprise no one. The two powers have won outright or earned a share of the section championship the last 10 years.

You can watch the game on Trib HSSN on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Another 6A showdown

While Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair battle for first place in Section 2-6A in the south, there is a fight for first place in Section 1-6A in the north as well when North Allegheny visits Butler.

The Tigers missed the postseason a year ago and are off to a good start to their goal of returning ot the playoffs with wins in their first two section games.

Those victories over New Castle and Pine-Richland last week ended a three-game losing skid and improved NA to 5-7 overall.

The Golden Tornado registered double-digit section wins last week over Seneca Valley and New Castle. Butler, which was ranked No. 1 in the preseason, has won seven straight games since falling to North Hills in overtime and is 9-1 overall.

North Allegheny and Butler are in a three-way tie for first place in the section along with defending 6A champion Central Catholic. The Vikings on Tuesday host New Castle in a rematch of the 2023 WPIAL 6A title game won by Central Catholic, 61-52.

Taking the scenic route to 1st place

California is having one of the more interesting boys basketball campaigns this season.

The Trojans entered 2024 last week with a 0-9 overall record.

However, Cal is off and rolling at 2-0 atop Section 2-A after posting section wins over West Greene and Mapletown.

California is tied for first place with Monessen. The Greyhounds have won eight of their nine games this season and have a seven-game winning streak since losing to Yough in early December.

The Trojans and Greyhounds are both home Tuesday to the teams that are one game behind them in the section standings.

California hosts Jefferson-Morgan while Monessen will welcome West Greene.

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