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Sewickley Academy boys rebound from defensive lapse

| Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy's Anthony Muscato drives to the basket past North Catholic's P.J. Fulmore during their game Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, in Sewickley.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy's Justin Pryor strips the ball from North Catholic's John Savulchak during their game Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, in Sewickley.

When the Sewickley Academy boys basketball team stepped on the court against Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic last week it had something to prove — that it was a defensively sound unit.

The Panthers were coming off a loss to Vincentian Academy where they were outscored 115-88 — the most points given up by the team in more than a decade.

But when the buzzer sounded at the end of the game against the Trojans, Sewickley Academy walked away with an impressive 50-45 victory, holding North Catholic 20 points below its season average.

“We gave up 115 points to Vincentian,” senior guard Keenan Hickton said. “That isn't our game. That isn't Sewickley basketball. We came into this game with defensive energy and a defensive purpose.”

Sewickley Academy led 21-20 lead at halftime and built a four-point lead in the third frame after a pair of Bradford Baylock free throws. But a P.J. Fulmore 3-pointer started a late North Catholic rally that put the Trojans up by three points heading into the fourth quarter.

The Trojans took a six-point lead after a Ryan Kirby 3-pointer with six minutes to play. But that is when the Panthers made their final run. Hickton was fouled on a layup but missed the ensuing free throw. The senior was able to get his own rebound and pass the ball to JP Bowell, who hit a 3-pointer to cut the North Catholic lead to one.

Steven Munn gave his squad the lead with less than four minutes to go after he stripped Fulmore and connected on a layup. Sewickley Academy would not trail again.

“It shows how hard we have been working,” Munn said. “We come to practice and work hard every day. Anyone on this team can step up any given night.”

Drew Johnson led the Panthers with 10 points.

It was Sewickley Academy's first win over North Catholic in six tries since the teams were paired together in Section 2-A. Four of those games were decided by 11 or fewer points.

“We are thrilled to win a close game,” Sewickley Academy coach Win Palmer said. “We have dropped a few close ones to them over the years. They are a tough, physical, well-coached team. This will give our team huge momentum.”

The win over North Catholic not only gave the Panthers their confidence back but kept them in the hunt for the Section 2-A title. The Panthers (4-1) trailed only Vincentian Academy (5-0) in the standings entering this week's games. North Catholic (3-2) and Eden Christian (2-3) also are in the hunt for a section title.

The Panthers will start their second swing through the section this week and will look to continue playing at a high level. The showdown with Vincentian Academy on Feb. 5 will be circled on everyone's calendar and could be for a share of the Section 2-A title.

“We know we can't take anyone for granted,” Palmer said. “But we have good momentum after this win. We get Vincentian coming here in a few weeks. That is no guarantee of a win but we do play pretty good at home.”

Sewickley Academy returns to action at 7:30 p.m. Friday night as they host Quigley Catholic.

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

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