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Basketball

Sewickley Academy girls basketball aims to improve without a senior on squad

| Monday, Dec. 5, 2016, 3:06 p.m.
Sewickley Academy's Kendall Lightcap brings the ball upcourt during a scrimmage against Shady Side Academy Thursday Dec. 1, 2016, in Sewickley.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy's Kendall Lightcap brings the ball upcourt during a scrimmage against Shady Side Academy Thursday Dec. 1, 2016, in Sewickley.
Sewickley Academy's Olivia Ryder takes a shot during a scrimmage against Shady Side Academy Thursday Dec. 1, 2016, in Sewickley.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy's Olivia Ryder takes a shot during a scrimmage against Shady Side Academy Thursday Dec. 1, 2016, in Sewickley.
Sewickley Academy's Alyssa WInters grabs a rebound during a scrimmage against Shady Side Academy Thursday Dec. 1, 2016, in Sewickley.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy's Alyssa WInters grabs a rebound during a scrimmage against Shady Side Academy Thursday Dec. 1, 2016, in Sewickley.
Sewickley Academy head coach Mariam Sy watches a scrimmage against Shady Side Academy Thursday Dec. 1, 2016, in Sewickley.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy head coach Mariam Sy watches a scrimmage against Shady Side Academy Thursday Dec. 1, 2016, in Sewickley.

For Sewickley Academy's girls basketball team, this season is the start of a multi-year project.

The Panthers will send a senior-free lineup to the court, one they hope will improve from last year and continue to grow during the season and for years to come.

This also is the first full season in charge for coach Mariam Sy, who took over the team in the middle of last season, when the Panthers finished with a 5-17 record.

“We are going on the right path, and I think we're going to do well. The young girls are not scared and intimidated by anything,” Sy said.

The veteran of Sewickley Academy's group is junior Olivia Ryder, an athletic 5-foot-11 forward who was a 15-goal scorer for the school's soccer team.

Around Ryder is a large sophomore class that makes up the bulk of the lineup. Tatum McKelvey, Kendall Lightcap, Theresa Wilson and Myra Samuel will receive the backcourt minutes — as well as chip in at the forward slots — and forward Alyssa Winters will battle in the post beside Ryder.

“They're working hard and getting better, and they are a group of young people who get along pretty well,” Sy said. “It will be crazy when they all become seniors and have played together so long. Then we'll go back to being young again (after the sophomores graduate).”

What the team lacks in age, they don't lack in experience after most of the group saw some varsity playing time last year.

They also are accustomed to needing to make plays themselves. Last season, the Panthers lost leading scorer Maddy Casale for part of the season with a knee injury, which forced others on the team to score and take charge.

“That helped them. We didn't have that one person who was the highest scorer every game. Everybody had to pick up some slack,” Sy said.

“It will be three or four of them who could be the highest scorer one game, and the next game, it will be someone else. They are not selfish. Whoever is open, they are willing to take the shot and do their thing.”

Unlike the school's boys team, Sewickley Academy's girls remained in Class A despite the PIAA's shift to six classifications.

That keeps the Panthers among some familiar opponents in Section 1, where they will face tough challenges from favorites Cornell and Quigley Catholic, battle once again with Rochester and Union and get one new opponent, Propel Andrew Street charter school from Munhall.

Facing familiar opponents will add another level of comfort for the young Panthers, who hope to begin the program's turnaround this season.

“Last year was kind of crazy,” Sy said, referring to the total effect the coaching change and injuries had on the team. “Mentally, I think the girls were kind of off because of everything. But this year, they've really come to play, and they're stress-free.”

Matt Grubba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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