Upper St. Clair upsets Hempfield girls

Paul Schofield
| Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, 9:48 p.m.

Hempfield's struggles in the WPIAL Class AAAA girls basketball playoffs continued Friday at North Allegheny.

Upper St. Clair upset the fourth-seeded Spartans (19-4), 53-48, in a first-round game. The Panthers also defeated Hempfield, 44-42, in the 2012 quarterfinals.

The Panthers (12-11) overcame a 10-point third-quarter deficit to advance to the quarterfinals.

Rachel Mazzie, a 5-foot-8 sophomore, scored 15 of her team-high 17 points in the second half to rally the Panthers.

She scored nine in the fourth quarter, including a jumper with 1:33 left that gave Upper St. Clair the lead for good at 48-46. She added another basket with 47.7 seconds left to push the lead to 50-46.

“Once we got the lead in the fourth quarter, I thought we'd win,” Upper St. Clair coach Ernie Koontz said. “We have three girls who are 75 percent or better foul shooters.”

Upper St. Clair led, 46-41, with 2:50 left after a 3-pointer by DiAndra Conwell, but a basket by Jasmine Jones and a 3-pointer by Monica Burns with 1:51 left tied the score at 46-46.

That's when Mazzie took over.

“Upper St. Clair just stepped up its play in the second half defensively and pressured us, and we panicked,” Hempfield coach Aaron Epps said. “The game came down to rebounding, and we just didn't do it well enough. It's been a problem all season.”

Hempfield led, 12-11, after one quarter as Burns and Leah Knizner each scored six points, and it stretched its lead to 22-16 at halftime. Knizner scored all 10 of her points in the first half, and Upper St. Clair shot poorly and had 10 turnovers.

Burns led Hempfield with 17 points.

“We had to hold our own in the first half,” Koontz said. “We went triangle-and-two, and we slowed them down. That allowed us to play a more aggressive man-to-man in the second half.

“Once we got into that up tempo and created pressure, we like to go baseline to baseline.”

Hempfield was able to push the lead to 30-20 with 5:33 left in the third quarter on follows by Jones and Lea Scozio.

The Panthers, however, closed with a 16-9 run to trim the deficit to 39-36.

Upper St. Clair finally caught Hempfield when Madison Serio hit a 3-pointer with 4:34 left to tie the score at 41.

Serio's basket gave Upper St. Clair a 43-41 lead.

Jordan Serio added 13 points for USC.

“In a playoff game, you need to do the little things,” Epps said. “We didn't get a rebound when we needed. We were tipping them too much.”

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at pschofield@tribweb.com or via twitter @pschofield_Trib.

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