Sewickley Academy's Groetsch, Palmer reach milestones
January was a milestone month in a couple of ways for Sewickley Academy boys basketball.
On Jan. 17 in a 70-45 win over OLSH, senior Chris Groetsch scored his 1,000th point to become the seventh Panthers player to hit that mark. Seven days later in a 68-39 win over Neshannock, Panthers coach Win Palmer recorded his 600th win as SA (13-3, 9-1) maintained its spot atop Section 3-2A.
Groetsch, a Johns Hopkins recruit, has developed into dangerous scorer as a 5-foot-10 guard, but it's the all-around progress in his game that has made him so important to the Panthers.
“When I started as a freshman, I wasn't a very confident player. I just shot and sort of ran around with no real purpose,” Groetsch said. “I've added little pieces to my game each year and put together a collection of skills to become a better player.”
“He worked so hard on his game, and he's been very responsive to coaching,” Palmer said. “He plays so aggressively, but he's learned what a good shot is. He spends so much time working on his ball-handling, shooting, all parts of his game. He doesn't jump real well, but he's a great offensive rebounder because he anticipates the play.”
Groetsch said reaching the 1,000-point plateau was a goal of his, but unlike some players who achieve that mark, he has done it without needing to be the focal point of the Panthers' offense.
While scoring more than 16 points per game, Groetsch has ceded the role of leading scorer this season to sophomore Nate Ridgeway. He is capable on any given day of pouring it in for the Panthers, however, like he did leading the team with 23 points Sunday in a 90-73 win over Class A No. 1 Monessen in the Pittsburgh Classic at Montour.
“I'd say it's easy (to score) on our team, because we have a lot of very good basketball players, so there's no pressure on any one person,” Groetsch said. “It's been a goal of mine to accomplish (scoring 1,000 points), and I'm glad I was able to. Now that I've done it, it lets me go out and stay focused on team basketball and helping the team win every night.”
Winning has been common for Palmer's teams through the years at St. Stephen's (Va.), Flint Hill (Va.) and SA. Palmer won four Virginia Independent School state titles before coming to Sewickley, where his teams have three WPIAL titles and a PIAA title.
To hit 600 wins has required consistency between Palmer's teams through the years, and when talking about the milestone, he recognized that every team from his first year coaching until today contributed to his record, which stands at 602-271 entering this week.
“The most important thing for me is that it brings back memories of outstanding teams and outstanding players through the years. I never compare teams, but the sum of all those great memories is what makes it special,” Palmer said.
Palmer can be forgiven if No. 600 doesn't carry quite the excitement that No. 500 did for him. That win was Sewickley Academy's triumph in the 2010 PIAA title game and the final game for his younger son, Tyler, for the school that has become Palmer's home the past 16 years.
“It is a special place. Both my sons graduated from here, and there are so many successful people here — students, teachers, administrators, trustees, even the parents — who make this a great place,” Palmer said. “I love giving back to the school any chance I get, and I view this (milestone) as that, because it brings a little more positive attention to the school and the incredibly talented people here.”
Palmer, who is also Sewickley Academy's athletic director, indicated he intends to go into retirement when he is finished at SA. When that will be is up in the air, however, and he didn't rule out a push for win No. 700.
“I haven't put a timetable on it, but I know this: As long as I wake up every day feeling as good as I do about going to a place as I do Sewickley, I'm happy to keep going to work,” he said.