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Basketball

Sewickley Academy girls find positives after tough season

| Monday, Feb. 22, 2016, 6:24 p.m.

The Sewickley Academy girls basketball team had its share of struggles during the 2015-16 season.

Ending with a record of 5-17 overall and 2-8 in Section 1-A, the Panthers finished fifth among six teams in their section and missed the WPIAL playoffs for the first time in three years. It was the team's worst record since 2006-07 when it went 3-19 (3-9).

“It was a little bit disappointing. It was kind of a surprise,” senior point guard Maddy Casale said. “It didn't end how we all hoped it would.”

Marian Sy took over as coach in early January, after being an assistant coach with the program for four years. Despite the team's subpar finish, going under .500 for the fourth time in six years, Sy found some positives.

“It went great, actually,” Sy said. “We just had a little problem with injuries. Besides that, overall it was great.”

Sewickley Academy went 1-11 in its last 12 games, with a 25-14 win at Union separating five- and six-game losing streaks.

Casale felt that with the mid-season coaching change and injuries throughout the season, the Panthers were always in transition in some respect.

“We never got to really get momentum or hit our stride,” Casale said. “We feel like we were making some progress, winning one, and then the next game would be kinda like two steps back.”

The most devastating injury was to Casale, who tore her ACL against Avonworth on Jan. 8. While normally viewed as a season-ending injury, Casale rehabbed and was playing limited minutes two to three weeks after her injury, including hitting a buzzer-beater against Rochester on Jan. 28 to force overtime. Unfortunately, Casale suffered a partial meniscus tear on senior night the next evening against Winchester Thurston while trying to block a player on a fast break.

Sy said she had never seen anyone like Casale before and joked she wanted to be more like her point guard.

“Maddy is tough. If that were me, I couldn't do it,” Sy said. “I thought I was tough but watching her, it made me feel like ‘I wanna be like her when I grow up.' ”

Casale finished her career with 979 points, just 21 shy of the 1,000-point goal she set for herself.

“It was hard to be that close to something and then have it taken away,” Casale said. “But I'm at least glad I got to try.”

While she has played her last game at Sewickley Academy, Casale thinks the future of the team looks good. This season might not have gone how the Panthers wanted it, but they learned some things along the way.

“They have a lot to think about after this year,” Casale said. “Sometimes having a rough season, it helps you not want to have that happen again. So I think that they have a lot of potential for next year and the seasons to come.”

Zach Brendza is a freelance writer.

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