Bethel Park Outlasts USC In Defensive Battle 48-44
Updated: Feb 20
Basketball fans in Western Pennsylvania tend to appreciate games that are high tempo and feature lots of scoring. Tuesday night's South Hills showdown between Bethel Park and Upper Saint Clair was the exact opposite of what Pittsburgh basketball fans like to watch, but exactly what Pittsburgh basketball needs more of to compete at the elite statewide level: Defense.
The game started off well for Danny Holzer's Panthers as Upper Saint Clair raced out to an early 8-0 lead as his charges picked apart Bethel Park's defense. Their first quarter charge was led by senior big man Porter Rauch, who scored 6 of the 8 and finished the first quarter with 8 of the Panthers 13, as they led the contest 13-8. USC pressured the Bethel Park guards into bad decisions and were able to rush the Blackhawks offensively into poor shot selections.
The first quarter was marred by a host of touch fouls on both teams who were, essentially, punished for playing hard defense. 12 fouls were called in all.
In the second quarter, Bethel park's 2-3 zone began to give Upper Saint Clair issues. They slowed their offense down to search for better looks and the Blackhawks were able to claw their way back into the game, sending it to the dressing room tied at 20 after Ben Guffey hit a pull up jumper.
The third saw Bethel Park come out on a run as Dolan Waldo tossed one down, Anthony Watson clipped a bucket and Guffey sunk a triple to put the Blackhawks up 27-20 early in the quarter. Upper Saint Clair took a run of its own and the see-saw defensive battle went to the fourth with Bethel clinging to a 35-34 advantage.
In the fourth, the ping pong match continued until Watson scored on drive with three minutes to go, giving Bethel a 44-42 lead that they would not relinquish. The Panthers had a chance to tie the ballgame in the final seconds, but guard Nick Sukernek had his three pointer blocked. Guffey iced the game away with a free throw, setting the final score at 48-44.
The contest was a battle of the big men, as Rauch finished the game with 17 points, leading all scorers. The IUP bound Waldo found himself comfortable in the second half, as he scored 11 of his 15 points after the break. USC had a breakout game from sophomore guard Devin Hall, who showed poise under pressure in a big game as an underclassman, scoring 10 points. Most notably, USC's leading scorer, Tanner O'Grady, coming into the contest at about 20PPG, was held to just 5 points and 0-8 from behind the arc.
With the victory, Bethel Park moves to 10-1 going into another Washington Road showdown with Mount Lebanon.
USC falls to 8-2 and faces a trip to Canon-Mac on Friday, which is always a sticky wicket type of road game.
Three Rivers Broadcasting will resume its basketball coverage on Thursday, with a game TBA on Twitter. Friday, TRB will take in the Seton LaSalle-Aliquippa game and on Saturday, it's off to Oakland as Pittsburgh Central Catholic hosts North Catholic.
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