South Xtra: Upper St. Clair's success -- It's all about the team
Upper St. Clair's Jason Grabowski went airborne to try to get around Shaler's Geno Thorpe during a game last season.
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For Danny Holzer, everything about this season comes back to the team concept.
The Upper St. Clair High School boys basketball coach recently won his 300th career game, but he deflected all the credit.
"It's a great honor but what it really comes down to is having been fortunate enough to be surrounded by a lot of good people," Holzer said. "There have been a lot of good players on our teams, a lot of good coaches on our staff and the administration and parents have always been very supportive.
"It's more of a program achievement than some individual achievement. I'm happy that our program has been able to enjoy so much success."
Upper St. Clair has had plenty of success in recent weeks after a so-so start. The Panthers extended their winning streak to seven games Tuesday night with a 51-50 overtime victory against arch-rival Mt. Lebanon, raising their record to 10-3 overall and 6-1 in Section 4-AAAA. Joel Klein's 3-pointer with five seconds left decided it.
The Panthers have climbed to within one game of first-place Bethel Park (12-1, 7-0) in the section standings.
Holzer again cites the team concept when explaining why Upper St. Clair got things going following a 3-3 start.
"It's really been a matter of everyone accepting their role and playing together as a team," Holzer said. "As cliché as that sounds, that has been it. We have had three guys emerge as real scoring threats, which has given us a lot of balance and the other kids have really filled in well around them and complemented them. It's been a lot of fun to watch."
Upper St. Clair saw its record fall to 3-3 on Dec. 18 when it lost, 38-17, at Bethel Park.
While the final score resembled something more in line of when the two South Hills rivals meet in football, Holzer had his team slow down the pace by holding the ball for much of the game because injured senior guard Jason Grabowski was out of the lineup.
The score was tied at 2-2 after one quarter and Bethel Park led 8-3 at halftime before pulling away in the second half.
"We missed a couple of layups that hurt us when the score was still close," Holzer said. "I really believe if we make those layups, it could have been a different game."
Upper St. Clair will get a second chance Tuesday when it plays host to Bethel Park to open the second half of its section schedule. Before that, the Panthers visit Trinity in a section game on Friday night.
Grabowski, a 6-0 guard, has since gotten healthy and had scored 99 points in Upper St. Clair's previous five games entering the week, an average of 19.8 points a game. Although Grabowski is technically a shooting guard, he also has the skills of a point guard.
"He's been our assists leader in most of our games lately, too," Holzer said. "He is a really versatile player. He can shoot it but he is also a good distributor."
The same description applies to 5-8 senior point guard Joel Klein, who averaged 13 points a game during the six-game winning streak.
The backcourt duo is complemented by 6-3 junior forward J.J. Conn, who is yet another versatile player with his ability to score on the low post or step outside to hit a 3-point shot. His scoring average was 13.8 during the streak.
"We have a good combination going right now," Holzer said. "All the pieces have started to fit and our kids are playing hard and they're playing well."
First Published January 17, 2013 12:00 am