Sewickley Academy boys edge rival Bishop Canevin in state semifinals
Chris Groetsch has only been to Hershey for the state soccer championships.
But the senior guard from Sewickley Academy gets to make the trip for basketball now after leading the Panthers to their third win of the season over rival Bishop Canevin on Tuesday night, this time in the PIAA Class 2A semifinals.
Groetsch scored a team-high 15 points and came up with a game-clinching steal with about four seconds left as Sewickley Academy edged past the Crusaders, 50-48, at North Allegheny.
The WPIAL champion Panthers (24-4) are headed to the state finals in their first year in 2A — and for the first time since 2010. But this was by far their toughest challenge in the postseason after winning each of their previous six playoff games by double figures.
After blowing a 13-point lead with 2:51 to play, Sewickley had to hit clutch free throws in the closing seconds to maintain control and escape with what once looked like a runaway victory.
After coming all the way back to get within two points, Bishop Canevin (22-6) inbounded with 6.7 seconds left, but Groetsch came up with a steal and time ran out.
He ended up on the floor and was mobbed by teammates in the corner of the floor as the buzzer rang.
“When (Bishop Canevin) beat us (in section play), (Mitchell King) picked my pocket (in the closing seconds) and that led to the game-winning points for them,” said Groetsch, a Johns Hopkins commit. “We came out of a timeout and had two fouls to give. We didn't want to give up a 3-pointer. I was able to get a hand on it this time and hold onto it. Basketball is a game of highs and lows.”
Call the win semi-sweet. Sewickley players wore homemade Hershey Kiss hats after the game. Tin foil hats are long-believed to shield the brain from threats. Maybe the Panthers could have used them to hold off the Crusaders' threat in the fourth.
With the Panthers up 47-34, sophomore guard Eugene Goodwine did all he could to rally the Panthers back. He got hot from the 3-point arc, connecting on three 3's in a row to key an 11-0 run that closed the gap to 47-45 with 1:37 left.
“Eugene was tremendous in leading us back,” Bishop Canevin coach Kevin Trost said. “It came down to a play here or there. We didn't play well in the first half; our zone was effective but we didn't play well offensively.”
Sewickley turned it over twice during the run and coach Win Palmer gathered his players and tried to settle them. Turns out, he didn't have to say much.
“We got a little careless with the big lead, and that isn't something we normally do,” Palmer said. “We made a lot of mistakes. Our guys all came to the huddle saying, ‘My fault, my fault, my fault.' They talked as much as I did. We were poised after that.”
Sewickley senior Justin Pryor, who had eight points and 10 rebounds, made 1 of 2 from the foul line to make it 48-45, but Bishop Canevin wasn't finished: Walter Bonds drove the lane, scored and was fouled. His free throw tied it 48-48 with 38.8 seconds left.
Groetsch, who added six rebounds, four assists and three steals, grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled with 25.4 remaining. His two free throws made it 50-48.
“We have come back to win games before but haven't really had a game like this,” said Groetsch, who had 24 points in the Panthers' win over OLSH in the WPIAL championship.
Sewickley Academy started fast, racing to leads of 10-2 and 12-4 before the Crusaders came back to take the lead early in the second quarter. The lead switched hands three times in the quarter before Isiah Warfield and Chris Groetsch hit 3-pointers to stake the Panthers to a 23-18 halftime lead. It was tied briefly in the third (31-31) after a Goodwine 3, but sophomore Nate Ridgeway, Groetsch and freshman Isiah Warfield connected on 3's to help the Panthers take a seven-point lead into the fourth.
A 7-0 run by the Panthers to start the final quarter stretched the lead to 47-34 before Bishop Canevin rallied.
Junior David Groetsch added 11 points for the Panthers, who have won 18 of their last 19 games.
Goodwine scored 18 points, King added 12 and Bonds had 10 for the Crusaders, who won the Section 2 title over Sewickley Academy but could not solve the Panthers in the postseason, losing to them in the WPIAL and state semifinals.
“The semifinals are the hardest round to lose in,” Trost said. “We lost in the (WPIAL) semis last year and this year, and it's tough to take. This is the farthest any of our teams have been.”
Sewickley Academy won state titles in 1997 and 2010. Bishop Canevin never had made the state semis.
“We're both teams that like to get out and run,” Chris Groetsch said. “Maybe at the end of the day, we tired them out.”
Sewickley Academy will play Constitution (20-9) for the championship at 2 p.m. Friday. Constitution was the runner-up in District 12, which houses schools in the Philadelphia Catholic League and Public League.