Shady Side boys hoops inching closer to playoff berth
The Shady Side Academy boys took a big step towards securing a WPIAL playoff spot on Jan. 21 with a 70-44 rout of South Allegheny. The Gladiators came into the game with a 6-1 Section 3-AA record, good for second place. The win boosted the Indians to a 4-4 section mark.
Kyle Olander led the way with 29 points, including 12 in the third quarter when the Indians broke the game open with a 23-9 run. Dan Marous scored 11 and Mike Ware added 10 points.
The Indians then hosted Sewickley Academy in a nonsection contest on Jan. 22. Led by 20 points from Olander and 10 from Ware, SSA won by a 54-45 score.
“We made a couple of nice adjustments against SA this time around that really helped us on defense,” SSA coach David Vadnais said. “We were able to take away their first and second options on offense, especially in the second half. I also think our pressure tired them out over the course of the game.
“We missed a lot of layups and foul shots in the first half that prevented us from building a bigger lead. In the second half, we converted those chances and pulled away. I was told when I took over the team that our kids would always work hard. That's becoming our greatest strength as a team. We consistently work hard for 32 minutes. It keeps us in games when we aren't playing our best, like the first half of SA and Sewickley. Lately, the hard work has helped pull away from some teams like SA. At this time, we are not even discussing playoffs. We are only focusing on the next game and what we can do to give ourselves the best chance to win.”
The Indians' one-game-at-a-time outlook proved successful as they picked up a road win at Riverview. Olander's 22 points paced SSA to a 66-46 win. After taking a 34-21 halftime lead, the Indians put the game away with a 20-11 third quarter edge. Ware added 14 points.
SSA Girls Basketball
The Shady Side Academy girls kept their playoff hopes alive as they cruised to a 50-33 win over South Allegheny at home on Jan. 21. The Indians led by 28-19 at the half and outscored the Gladiators, 10-4, in the third quarter. Natalie Palmer led the SSA attack with 15 points. The Indians traveled to Oakmont on Thursday to take on Riverview in another section contest and came home on the short end of a 42-31 score. Palmer score eight points to lead the Indians, who fell to 6-10 overall and 5-4 in Section 3-AA.
“We have been an inconsistent team,” SSA coach Audrey Scott said. “Our chemistry is messed up. What we did this week is what our season has been like. We look good one game and bad the next. Riverview would have been a good game to win but nobody stepped up. They played a box-on-one on Natalie and we didn't have the answer. Teams know that Natalie is our go-to scorer and they'll start doubling up on her. If defenses sit on her and nobody else steps up, we are in trouble.
“As far as the playoffs, it looks like we're in a good position on paper, but we have to overcome the inconsistency. We should pick up a couple more wins but we can't overlook anybody. The battle for the third and fourth playoff spots will be a battle, a real dogfight.”
FC Boys Basketball
The Fox Chapel boys avenged an earlier Section 2-AAAA defeat to Franklin Regional as they treated the homecrowd to a 57-39 win on Jan. 21. The Foxes led by 10 at the half. Matt D'Amico scored 31 points, including four 3-pointers as he inched closer to the Foxes' career scoring record. Brian Papich scored 10 points. The win vaulted the Foxes into a third-place tie with the Panthers as both teams are 5-4 in the conference.
“It was a crucial game for us going in and we didn't hide that fact from the players,” FC coach Zach Skrinjar said. “It was a game that we needed to win. Prior to the game, we told the team that if we boxed out and rebounded as well as limiting them in transition points, we would be in a position to win the game . We did all of those things and got a much needed win. Our section is very balanced, as I said at the beginning of the year, and we have continued to stress to our players that any team, anywhere, any night can get a victory. We need to be focused on our opponent that night or we will put ourselves in a bad position.”
Heading into Friday's matchup against winless Woodland Hills, D'Amico needed four points to pass Dave Ostrosky as FC's all-time leading scorer. He got that business out of the way quickly as his baseline drive early in the first quarter gave him the record.
“I wasn't nervous before the game,” he said. “I just wanted to get it over with and out of the way so we could focus on winning the game and making the playoffs.” The Foxes went on to a 78-50 win to keep pace with Franklin Regional at 6-4 in the section. Papich led all scorers with 33 points and D'Amico netted 15 points.
The game was stopped when D'Amico reached the milestone.
“Their PA announcer acknowledged Matt's accomplishment,” Skrinjar said. “They then took the ball out of play and let me present it to Matt. It was a very classy act by Woodland Hills AD George Novak and coach Odell Miller. I was very appreciative of what they did. It was a great night for Matt and for Fox Chapel basketball.”
FC Girls Basketball
The Fox Chapel girls remained perfect in Section 2-AAAA on Jan. 21 with a 58-40 win over Franklin Regional. Erin Mathias scored 20 points and had 11 rebounds. She got help from Kayla Slovenec, with 17 points and seven steals, and Taylor Cohen, who added 10 points. The Foxes traveled to Woodland Hills on Friday and cruised to a 57-21 win. Mathias scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Alanna Palumbo pitched in with 14 points, including four 3-pointers. The Foxes got some breathing room in the section race as Gateway edged second-place Plum by 50-49 to drop the Mustangs to 7-2 in the section. The Foxes are 9-0.
“We're playing well,” FC coach Meghan Meabon said. “We need to maintain our focus the rest of the way out and concentrate on our opponent that night. It's nice to have a two-game lead rather than a one-game lead, though. Now it's up to us to hold onto first place.”
The WPIAL Class AAA team sectionals were held on Jan. 22 and Fox Chapel hosted Seneca Vally with hopes of claiming the fifth spot for the section team championships. They got off to a slow start, losing seven of the first eight matches, and fell by a 38-25 score to fall to 8-3. Posting wins for the Foxes were: Pat Imhof (120), Darius Booker (138), Derrin Deitz (145), Corey Mahon (160), Tristan Houser (170) and Mike Mahon (182).
The Foxes competed in the Sharon Duals on Saturday and won four of their five matches. They started off with a 72-6 loss to Franklin Regional and then defeated Meadville (53-16), Sharon (46-25), Smethport (46-29) and Brockway (40-28).
“Franklin Regional is the top-ranked team in the state and #10 in the country and they certainly wrestled up to their ranking,” FC coach Ron Frank said. “We rebounded nicely, though.”
The Foxes are 12-4 on the season.
Despite two goals and an assist from Anthony Veltri, Fox Chapel lost to Peters Township, 6-3, on Friday. Jasper Uricchio scored the other goal for the Foxes and also added an assist.
Ben Friedland also picked up an assist and Chad Veltri made 40 saves in goal.
WPIAL Basketball Playoff Picture for FC and SSA
With the basketball season rapidly winding down in section play, all four local teams are still in the hunt. On the boys side as of Jan. 26, Fox Chapel is tied with Franklin Regional at 6-4 for the fourth and final slot in Section 2-AAAA. Both teams have four section games left and, if they remain tied, they will both qualify. The SSA boys are currently in fourth place in Section 3-AA with a 5-4 mark. Jeannette is in third at 5-3 while Serra Catholic is 3-4 and in fifth place. The Indians have three section games left.
The Fox Chapel girls are all alone atop the Section 2-AAAA standings with a 9-0 record and three games left. Plum is in second at 7-2. The SSA girls are 5-4 in Section 3-AA and in fourth place. Springdale is in fifth place at 3-5. The Indians have three section games remaining.
Marty Stewart is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-782-2123 or email@example.com.