ShareThis Page

Upper St. Clair basketball team streaks toward playoffs

| Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, 10:54 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Upper St. Clair's Jordan Grabowski works against Gateway's Delvon Randall during their game Sunday, Jan. 26, 2013 at La Roche College. USC won, 59-56. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
Upper St. Clair's Joel Klein scores over Gateway's D.J. Boyce recently at La Roche College. USC won, 59-56. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
Upper St. Clair's Patrick Jonnet drives past Gateway's Delvon Randall during their game Sunday, Jan. 26, 2013 at La Roche College. USC won, 59-56. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

Danny Holzer has been Upper St. Clair's head basketball coach for 18 years, and in that time he's witnessed two notable winning streaks similar to what his team is in the midst of right now.

In 1996, Upper St. Clair won 16 in a row en route to a WPIAL title. And in 2005, behind current Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee, the Panthers won 14 in a row and captured another WPIAL title.

Fast forward to 2012-13, and the Panthers are at it again, riding an 11-game winning streak heading into Friday night's Section 4-AAAA game against Peters Township.

This week, the Panthers (14-3, 9-1) defeated Baldwin, 56-49, in a section matchup Tuesday and Gateway, 59-56, in Sunday's Pittsburgh Basketball Club Classic at La Roche College.

The Upper St. Clair basketball team is the focus of this week's Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award feature. The impressive winning streak is the primary reason why Upper St. Clair High School is in third place in the Class AAAA standings.

Holzer isn't ready to clear out space in the school's trophy case just yet. Heading into the season, his main priority was getting the Panthers back into the playoffs after failing to qualify for the first time in 11 years last season. That goal has been accomplished, as USC has clinched a playoff berth.

“We feel like we've developed a lot of pride for our program. And the kids love the tradition and reputation that we've had for the last few years as a Quad-A powerhouse,” Holzer said. “They were really disappointed and didn't want that to happen again, and they really wanted to let people know that last year was an aberration.”

The Panthers are paced by a balanced eight-man rotation featuring three double-digit scorers: senior Jordan Grabowski (16.8 points per game), junior J.J. Conn (14.2 ppg) and senior Joel Klein (10 ppg). Seniors Pete Coughlin and John Duffy round out Holzer's normal starting rotation.

“They all are very team-oriented and know their roles,” Holzer said. “Offensively, they all share the ball. Their chemistry is so good, and I think that's why they are playing well together.”

Juniors Will Ross, Conor Gallagher and Nick Staley are the first players off the bench, and Holzer said he has no reservations about getting them involved early. The three have shown no drop-off in production when they enter the game, Holzer said.

USC plays a balanced game with emphasis on tight man-to-man defense. The Panthers look to capitalize on fast-break chances and stay true to Holzer's mantra of grinding it out on defense, then wait for a good, high-percentage shot.

“We feed off one another,” Holzer said. “Our team has great chemistry, and we just find ways to win. We like to think that it starts with playing solid, full-court defense.

“That's our identity with our defense, and by pressing the other team, it just sets us up nice offensively.”

USC may lack the star power of some other Class AAAA contenders, Holzer finds peace in knowing his entire lineup will give him 110 percent each night. The goal of simply making it back to the playoffs has been attained, and now it's time to set higher playoff aspirations.

“They've exceeded my expectations as far as how gritty and tough we are,” he said. “Most of our games have been close games, and we've found ways to win them. This team just goes out and wins together.”

Brian Graham is a freelance writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.