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Florida trip beneficial for Sewickley Academy boys

| Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Sewickley Academy Panthers saw a little bit of everything during their recent trip to Florida.

And with the start of Section 2-A play just days away, that's exactly what coach Win Palmer wanted.

The Panthers (5-2) cranked up the pressure on both ends of the floor in a 73-50 win over A.N. Meyer (Ontario) in their first game, then slowed the pace in losing a 48-44 decision to St. Stephen's Episcopal (Texas).

“We played a nice mixture of talent,” Palmer said. “We got to see just about all of the styles we're going to see the rest of the season.”

Sewickley Academy's varsity squad finished the KSA Classic — played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando — with a 2-1 record. The team's third game against Fleetwood was won by forfeit.

Junior forward Drew Johnson was named to the all-tournament team at the event.

Along with Johnson, sophomore forward Luke Vith has been playing well in the early going.

“They've been coming on,” Palmer said of Johnson and Vith. “They've added a tremendous dimension to our team.

“They can shoot, and they can rebound.”

The Panthers' junior varsity team also made the trip to Florida and registered two wins in its three contests.

Sewickley Academy's depth and talent have served the team's up-tempo style of play quite well in the early portion of the season.

After topping the 70-point mark just once all of last season, the Panthers have done so three times already in this season's opening month while getting double-figure scoring from a handful of players.

But it may have been the four-point loss to St. Stephen's Episcopal that was the Panthers' most impressive performance so far in the eyes of their head coach.

“They were a fast team,” Palmer said. “They had a talented point guard, a shooter on the wing and a 6-9 big man.

“We slowed them down.”

Upon returning from Florida, Palmer gave his players a week off to spend the holidays with their families, but they were back in the gym Monday preparing for the section opener at Quigley Catholic on Friday.

“I've never done that before,” Palmer said of the seven-day break.

Palmer is comfortable shuttling as many as 10 different players in and out of his lineup, which is an asset in Sewickley Academy's fast-paced system. The added depth will also help because the Panthers will play four games in six days starting with the Quigley game Friday night.

“We're a different Sewickley Academy team than the one the rest of the section is used to seeing,” Palmer said.

The Panthers' competition for playoff berths in Section 2-A figures to be fierce. Vincentian and North Catholic are among the top teams in all of Class A.

Quigley Catholic has qualified for postseason play the past three seasons, and Eden Christian figures to be in the playoff hunt as well.

“Our kids are having fun,” Palmer said. “They're really excited.

“This team really enjoys being together.”

Kevin Ritchart is a freelance writer.

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