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Sewickley Academy falls short in bid to reach state final

| Tuesday, March 15, 2016, 10:48 p.m.

After coming up a game short of the state final last season, Kennedy Catholic never trailed in a 75-61 victory over Sewickley Academy in the PIAA Class A semifinals Tuesday night.

Kennedy (27-2) will go for its seventh PIAA title at 2 p.m. Friday against Philadelphia's Math, Civics and Science at Hershey's Giant Center.

Sewickley, coming off an upset victory over Farrell last Friday, lost to the Golden Eagles for the second time this season to finish 26-4.

West Virginia-bound Sagaba Konate was among three Kennedy Catholic players who finished with 16 points. Panthers coach Win Palmer wanted to concentrate on the 6-foot-8 Konate.

“(Sagaba) hurt us, but what really hurt us was when some of the other guys were making shots,” Palmer said. “The real dagger was when (Mohamed Konate) hit that step-back 3 in the third quarter when we were making some sort of run there.”

The Golden Eagles took the lead for good during the middle of the first quarter and eventually built their lead to 23 points in the third.

To illustrate how well things were going for Kennedy, a missed shot hit the rim and made it back to Drew Magestro, standing about 12 feet away. Magestro swatted the ball with his right forearm, and the unusual shot went in as time expired in the half.

“Coach says if you work hard, you'll get rewarded,” Magestro said. “I knew it was going off the rim, so I hustled to it. That was God. He put it in for me.”

But Sewickley cut the lead to 11 points in the fourth quarter before Kennedy Catholic pulled away.

“Sewickley's a very good team,” Kennedy coach Rick Mancino said. “The good thing about the run we've had is that the WPIAL's got some very good teams. We beat Jeannette, North Catholic and Sewickley. To go to Hershey, it's great to beat the best.”

Kennedy Catholic won its last state title in 2001, when it completed a streak of four straight titles.

The Golden Eagles have lost three times in state finals since.

Magestro and Mohamed Konate, Sagaba's brother, had 16 points each.

Chris Groetsch led the Panthers with 22 points, including five 3-pointers.

“Chris has stepped up big for us this year,” Palmer said. “He's made so many good plays. He got one breather in the first quarter, and that was it. I'm also proud of our senior Scotty Brown. He fouled out late in the game, but he gave us so much this year.”

Nate Ridgeway had 15 for Sewickley Academy and made all four of his free-throw attempts.

The Golden Eagles will look to work on their free-throw shooting before embarking for Hershey. They were 3 of 13 from the line.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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