At first glance, Upper St. Clair might seem like a team without a true star player, at least in terms of a top-notch scorer.

But if you dig a bit deeper into the numbers and then take a look at the Panthers firsthand, the truth becomes crystal clear not long after tipoff — Tyler Robbins is the real deal.

A towering 6-foot-9 junior forward with a 7-foot wingspan, Robbins affects the game in so many ways beyond just scoring points, and a 44-39 home win Tuesday night against archrival Mt. Lebanon was further proof. Robbins finished with 7 points, 12 rebounds and 7 blocked shots — right around his season averages of 10.8 points, 12 rebounds and 5.4 blocks per game. And as longtime Upper St. Clair coach Danny Holzer pointed out after the game, Robbins affected several more contested shots that didn’t go down on the stat sheet as blocks, and his presence alone causes even the best teams to think twice before entering the paint.

No wonder points were at a premium Tuesday, as the Panthers’ stingy defense held the Blue Devils (10-2, 2-1) to nearly 30 points below their season average of 67.5 per game in the low-scoring affair.

“They have so many dynamic scorers. We had to make it difficult for them to get any type of a look [at the basket],” Holzer said. “We switched screens one through four. … And having Tyler Robbins protecting [inside] doesn’t hurt either.”

Mt. Lebanon’s Liam Sheely looks to the basket as Upper St. Clair’s Tyler Robbins tries to block his shot Tuesday at Upper St. Clair High School. A 6-9 forward, Robbins blocked 7 shots as Upper St. Clair won, 44-39. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Defense has been the theme all season for Upper St. Clair (9-3, 3-0), especially during the Panthers’ current six-game winning streak after a 3-3 start. Upper St. Clair has allowed 50 points in a game only once in its past eight games, and that was a 63-52 win Dec. 29 against Peters Township. Robbins, by the way, registered his first career triple-double in that game, and he did it the hard way — 13 points, 14 rebounds and 15 blocked shots.

Yes, you read that right.

“It feels great,” Robbins said. “That’s what you work for all offseason — to beat them.”

Of course, the Panthers are far from a one-man show, and Robbins received plenty of help from his friends against Mt. Lebanon. Brett Meinert led the team with 12 points in the game, and Julian Dahlem finished with 9 to go with 8 from Christian Ito. On any given night, any of Upper St. Clair’s starters are capable of taking over as the team’s go-to scorer, but one thing remains constant — Robbins dominating down low and protecting the rim like no one else.

“He’s probably the best big in the WPIAL,” Dahlem said about Robbins. “[Other teams] just don’t have a Tyler Robbins.”

The game marked the 50th meeting between Holzer and Blue Devils coach Joe David, who each have spent more than two decades roaming the sidelines at their respective schools. David recently joined Holzer in the 400-win club, making Tuesday’s game a truly special clash between two of the WPIAL’s most revered coaches.

And although there is plenty of mutual respect between the two, you’d better believe Holzer will cherish this win and the bragging rights that come with it a little bit more than most regular-season games.

“I have the utmost respect for [David] and their program,” Holzer said. “I think we’re mirror images of one another. I think that’s one thing that’s good about the rivalry — between the teams and the coaches, there’s a heck of a lot of respect.”

Mt. Lebanon’s Riley Farabaugh tries to get past Upper St. Clair’s Tyler Robbins (20) and Kaamil Jackson (4) on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024 at Upper St. Clair High School. Upper St. Clair won, 44-39. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Now, with his team all alone atop Class 6A Section 2 and looking like a legitimate WPIAL title contender, the Panthers’ path to the postseason is beginning to take shape — and Holzer thinks they have what it takes to make another deep playoff run in a wide-open Class 6A title chase.

“I think we’re in that mix, but there’s a bunch of good teams. There’s no dominant team,” he said. “There’s a lot of good ones, and we think we’re one of them.”

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Steve Rotstein

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at