USC drives past Hempfield in overtime
Trailing by five points against Upper St. Clair heading into the fourth quarter, Hempfield forward Nate Perry confidently told his teammates, "We got this," as he headed to the sideline to inbound the ball.
When the Spartans sent the game to overtime, it appeared he was right.
In the extra period, however, it was all Panthers.
Upper St. Clair (14-8) opened the extra frame a 7-0 run and held off a late Hempfield charge for a 60-56 victory over the fifth-seeded Spartans.
"I knew it was going to be a tough game, and we didn't make enough plays," Hempfield coach Jim Nesser said. "We didn't make enough defensive plays, we didn't make enough offensive plays, and consequently, when you don't make plays in a playoff game, you don't win."
Hempfield (16-6) was only 3 of 8 (37.5 percent) from the floor in overtime, but it was obvious the team was pressing after Panthers swingman Brett McCormick opened the extra period with a deep 3-pointer just 8 seconds in. Upper St. Clair guards Jordan Albert, who finished with 19 points, and Steve Limberio each hit a pair of free throws for a 55-48 lead.
It certainly changed the mood among the Panthers' bench players, who were downtrodden after Corey Terek hit a putback of a missed 3-pointer by Perry with 3.1 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime.
"I was probably the biggest culprit in that because I put my head down and it sucked the life out of me," Upper St. Clair coach Danny Holzer said. "I regained myself immediately because I saw the kids coming over to the bench the same way and I turned my attention to being positive."
Terek, who along with R.J. Thomas finished with 12 points, kept Hempfield in the game with period-long spurts that masked the team's shooting deficiencies. Thomas scored seven of the Spartans' 12 in the second quarter, while Terek scored eight of the team's 11 in the third.
"You've got to play consistent, with five guys playing consistent defensively and offensively and, when you're inconsistent, every possession counts," Nesser said. "We haven't been consistent all year, and we're still not consistent."
Though Perry led all scorers with 21 points, he tossed up several deep 3-point attempts in both the fourth quarter and overtime but missed them all. He only hit one shot from beyond the arc, and that came in the first quarter.
"We really worked on double-teaming him and tried to keep him away from the rim because he's such a great player, and he was still able to get there quite a bit and I think we wore him out, too," Holzer said. "It seemed like he was missing more than usual and I put two physical kids, Mike Deitrick and Dakota Conwell — two of Jim Render's studs — and we said, 'Let's play football with them' and be physical."