Upper St. Clair ends Latrobe's playoff plans
Latrobe started Saturday's WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal contest against Upper St. Clair in a zone defense.
But Upper St. Clair junior guard Steve Limberiou spoiled the Wildcats' plans.
Limberiou nailed a trio of 3-pointers during a 19-1 run in the first half, and Upper St. Clair (15-8) pulled away for a 61-41 victory. The victory sets up a third meeting against No. 1 Mt. Lebanon in the semifinals on Wednesday at a time and site to be determined.
"We didn't want to play zone the whole game," Latrobe coach Brad Wetzel said. "We were hoping to start in the zone and then bring our pressure when we wanted to.
"But we lost their shooters a couple of times in the second quarter, and they made us pay. They also were only giving us one shot at the basket in the first half."
The score was tied 7-all late in the first quarter when Limberiou hit his first 3-pointer of the game to give Upper St. Clair a 10-7 lead. Limberiou, who had five 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 21 points, opened the second quarter with two 3-pointers to extend the lead to 16-7. After a 3-pointer by Jordan Albert, Latrobe was forced out of its zone.
Upper St. Clair led 33-13 in the second quarter and was up 35-18 at halftime.
"I was a little surprised they started in a zone because they play an aggressive defense," Upper St. Clair coach Dan Holzer said. "But Brad did his homework. The last time we faced a zone, we lost. Steve is a real good spot shooter. He hit some key shots."
Upper St. Clair was 5 for 5 from the 3-point line in the second quarter and finished 9 for 16. The Panthers finished 19 for 34.
Latrobe struggled from the field, making 18 for 53, including 1 for 10 from beyond the 3-point line.
Upper St. Clair did a good job containing Latrobe's top guns: Zach Landers, Doug Johnson and Chris Dudzenski. Landers scored 10 points, eight in the second half, and Johnson had 11, nine in the second half. Dudzenski was held to five points.
"The past four games we've put two football players, Mike Deitrick and Dakota Conwell, on our opponent's best players, and they've done a nice job," Holzer said. "They've found their niche. They are tough and physical. Both were effective against Nate Perry of Hempfield."
Wetzel said once Upper St. Clair got the lead, it was able to control the tempo.
Latrobe made a few runs at Upper St. Clair in the second half, but the Wildcats were never able to get the deficit into single digits.
The Wildcats got to within 40-26 in the third quarter and 50-39 in the fourth quarter, but each time Upper St. Clair hit big shots.
Brett McCormick had 11 points for the Panthers and Garret Del Re, a 6-foot-6 junior center, pulled down 11 rebounds. Upper St. Clair held a 32-21 edge in rebounding.
"I knew they'd make a few runs at us in the second half," Holzer said. "Their pressure forced turnovers, but we were able to hold them off."
Upper St. Clair was effective from the foul line in the fourth quarter, making 9 of 11 attempts. It finished 14 for 17, while Latrobe was only 4 for 13.
"We fell behind by 15, and it was a tough hill to climb," Wetzel said. "It was a heck of an effort, and they hit some big shots down the stretch."