Led by first year coach Christen Adels, Sewickley Academy girls making major strides
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Six wins might not seem like a lot, but for the Sewickley Academy girls basketball team, it is the result of a season of hard work.
The Panthers defeated Winchester Thurston, 38-23, last week — the team's 12th win this season and sixth in a row. It continued the team's longest winning streak since the 2004-05 squad won five in a row.
“It's huge,” senior Mackenzie Pryor said. “We still have two or three weeks left in the season, and we are already in the playoffs. I don't think anyone expected us to do this well since we came back with pretty much the same team as last year. The coaches have done such a good job helping us improve.”
First-year Panthers coach Christen Adels and her staff have given the girls basketball program — which hasn't had a winning campaign since the 2009-10 season — a spark as Sewickley Academy is 12-4 overall and 7-2 in Section 1-A play.
“We were worried because you spend so many years building a relationship with a coach,” senior forward Katelyn Ripple said. “You don't know how well you will get along with them. But it is amazing how much she has helped us.”
Adels is no stranger to finding success with a Class A sports program. She coaches the boys and girls volleyball programs at Beaver County Christian, both of which are regular playoff contenders.
“A lot of these girls don't play basketball in the offseason,” Adels said. “Our point guard, Maddie Casale, plays in the offseason but everyone else is a multisport athlete. They go from soccer to basketball to softball or lacrosse.
“Basketball isn't their focus, but it is rewarding to see them develop over the three or fourth months I have them.”
The season hasn't been without its hiccups. The Panthers started the season 2-3, but during the team's third loss of the year — a 44-36 setback at Aliquippa — the girls realized the potential they had by battling back from a 15-point halftime deficit.
“I think the girls were shellshocked in that Aliquippa game by the pace and how physical they were playing,” Adels said. “But they woke up at halftime and outscored them in the third, but we still came up short. That game in December was the turning point of the season.”
Since the loss to the Quips, the team has won 10 of its 11 games, holding all teams in its wins to 27 or fewer points.
The new coaching staff has found success working with the team's defense. Due to having a group of players who provide height and length, the Panthers have been able to master the 1-3-1 defense.
The Panthers have the top points-against average in Class A at 25 per game and have allowed 40 or more points in only two games.
Even with its strong defense, Adels admitted the team still has a lot of things on which to work. She would like to see the team increase its 35.6-point scoring average by having her players start driving to the hoop.
“We have a couple players who are comfortable doing it,” Adels said. “We need four or five who can in case the defense isn't working in a game. We need players to have the confidence and ability to drive to the hoop and go up strong.”
With only a handful of games remaining, Sewickley Academy will begin looking toward the WPIAL playoffs. The Panthers haven't made the postseason since the 2011-12 season. For the seniors, getting to the playoffs won't be enough. They want a win.
“That would be huge,” Pryor said. “Getting into the second round hasn't been done here in a really long time. It would be important for us to leave a legacy and encourage the younger players to keep the success going after we leave.”
The Panthers return to the court Thursday, as they travel to Eden Christian for a 4:30 p.m. tip.
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.