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Sewickley Academy boys open section play with victory

| Monday, Dec. 19, 2016, 11:00 p.m.

Barely more than a week into basketball season, Sewickley Academy's boys are a first-place team.

Opening Section 3-AA play early with the school's break starting this week, the Panthers got 23 points from Nate Ridgeway and 20 from Chris Groetsch to pull away after a tight first quarter for a 76-58 win over Neshannock.

The game was the first regular-season contest in their new gym after Sewickley Academy (3-0, 1-0) had a Dec. 13 nonsection game against Harvest Baptist, which was intended to be the curtain-raiser for the events center, canceled because of wintry weather.

“It's not the way we wanted to play our first game in a new gym, with a section game against a quality opponent like Neshannock,” Sewickley Academy coach Win Palmer said. “I wasn't sure how it would go, but our defense showed up, and it got us some easy baskets on the other end.”

The Panthers opened their slate by knocking off two larger schools. SA defeated Thomas Jefferson, 81-55, to begin the season Dec. 9 at Peters Township, and the next day, the Panthers got a road win over Baldwin, 56-49.

Groetsch scored 20, Ridgeway had 19 and Justin Pryor added 14 in the opener, and Pryor provided the spark in the second game with 20 points to rally SA from a six-point halftime deficit. Isaiah Smith added 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting, and Ridgeway scored 12 against Baldwin.

“We got a good performance from 10 or 11 guys each night, and the older guys are doing a good job mixing and matching,” Palmer said. “I usually like to have certain groups on the court together or like certain lineups, but there were times we got some good play from a group, and I'd say to the coaches, ‘I don't think this group has ever practiced together.' ”

The Panthers wrapped up before the holidays with a Monday section game against Sto-Rox, after deadline for this week's edition.

That Sto-Rox team happened to be the season's first test for Quaker Valley, which is out to a 4-0 start.

QV topped Sto-Rox, 82-62, before trouncing North East, 68-28, to win the South Park tipoff tournament. Last week, the Quakers produced lopsided wins over Keystone Oaks, 84-37, and Ellwood City, 92-45, before having a scheduled game Saturday against Vincentian Academy postponed by weather.

Coletrane Washington scored 21 to lead six Quakers in double figures against Ellwood City, and it was another of those six, Ryan Stowers, who led QV with 18 against Keystone Oaks.

The Quakers were slated to open Section 2-4A play this week — Tuesday against Beaver, after this edition's deadline, and Friday at New Castle.

The hot starts haven't been just for the boys teams, however, as Sewickley Academy's girls also have a 4-0 record to begin the season.

SA started its season victorious at the Aquinas Academy tournament with wins over the host team, 55-33, and Ellis School, 38-30. The Panthers then won nonsection games over Eden Christian, 43-23, and Avella, 35-24, to wrap up their pre-holiday schedule.

QV's girls, on the other hand, have run into stiff opposition to begin their year 0-4. The Quakers lost 58-48 to Mohawk and 39-36 to OLSH at the season-opening Carlynton tournament before falling to Moon, 65-42, and Cornell, 59-33, in nonsection play last week.

Quaker Valley was slated to open Section 2-4A play Monday against New Castle, after this edition's deadline.

Matt Grubba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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