Deep roster helps Sewickley Academy boys play attacking defense

Nathan Smith
| Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Developing depth can be a hassle for a Class A basketball program.

Sewickley Academy, on the other hand, has a surplus of talent this season. The deep bench the Panthers possess in 2013-14 is allowing the team to turn its defense up a notch.

“In the past we ran a more conventional man-to-man defense,” Sewickley Academy coach Win Palmer said. “We tried to be patient. We haven't always had the depth we have this year.”

The Sewickley Academy coaching staff decided to make the change to a full-court press in the offseason. With a deep bench, the 2013-14 team is able to pressure teams and force quick shots and turnovers.

The numbers of players is enhanced by their athletic ability. Many of the players play multiple sports — including soccer, tennis, golf, and baseball — and bring their athletic talents to the court for the Panthers.

“We have a bunch of athletic guys,” senior Luke Vith said. “We haven't had guys like that in the past who can play this fast. A lot of the guys play others sports. It is a good set of players.”

The new style of play led to three wins last week. In Sewickley Academy's season opener, the defense led the way to a 60-45 win over Harvest Baptist.

“It is encouraging to see our guys play at this pace in the first game of the season,” Palmer said. “We were sharp on defense for this time of year, but you can tell they are not used to playing this pace on offense.”

The Panthers carried a 17-11 lead after one quarter as Vith and Keenan Hickton combined for 15 points. Sewickley Academy's lead grew to as many as 11 in the second frame.

“We hit a cold spell in the second quarter,” Vith said. “But the full-court press in the third quarter helped and we shot the ball better. It was our first game and they had a couple games under their belt. That made a difference.”

Sewickley Academy built its lead to 15 in the third quarter and the Huskies didn't come any closer.

Vith led the team with 21 points with 11 rebounds. Anthony Muscato added 13 and Hickton added 12. While Palmer approved of his team's offense, he noted the players looked like they were playing their first game of the season.

“When you play fast, your shot becomes different,” Palmer said. “You just catch, rip and go. You are quicker to get there. We're still getting our feet under us.”

The Panthers also captured a 76-42 win over Rochester. After trailing 12-11 after the first quarter, Sewickley Academy outscored Rochester, 50-19, in the second and third quarter for the win. Hickton led the team with 15 points, Muscato added 14 while Steve Munn and Ty Roberts each had 10.

The Panthers also escaped with a 63-61 overtime win over Serra Catholic. Vith tipped in a missed free throw with less than a second remaining in regulation to send the game into an extra frame. Munn then hit a 3-pointer with four seconds left for the win. Vith led Sewickley Academy with 20 points while Max Kaminsky added 14.

With its continued development, the team could be a contender in Class A. Palmer knows sheer numbers won't guarantee a win for the Panthers against top teams, such as Section 2-A rivals Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic and Vincentian Academy.

“Some other top teams won't be as affected,” Palmer said. “We have to continue to develop. We were circulating guys in (against Harvest Baptist) and it was their first varsity minutes. I am impressed with how they did. We need them to be good.”

The Panthers will travel to the KSA Classic at Disney World this week. They return to WPIAL action Jan. 3 when they play at Quigley Catholic.

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.

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