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Basketball

Sewickley Academy's Casale off to impressive start as Panthers chase section title

| Monday, Dec. 14, 2015, 1:09 p.m.
California's Bailey Vig tries to defend against Sewickley Academy's Maddy Casale during round one of the WPIAL Class A girls basketball championship Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, at Baldwin High School.
Kristina Serafini | Trib Total Media
California's Bailey Vig tries to defend against Sewickley Academy's Maddy Casale during round one of the WPIAL Class A girls basketball championship Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, at Baldwin High School.
Sewickley Academy's Maddy Casale defends against California's Olivia Helmick during round one of the WPIAL Class A girls basketball championship Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, at Baldwin High School.
Kristina Serafini | Trib Total Media
Sewickley Academy's Maddy Casale defends against California's Olivia Helmick during round one of the WPIAL Class A girls basketball championship Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, at Baldwin High School.
Sewickley Academy's Maddy Casale tries to get around California's Kat Pankratz during round one of the WPIAL Class A girls basketball championship Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, at Baldwin High School.
Kristina Serafini | Trib Total Media
Sewickley Academy's Maddy Casale tries to get around California's Kat Pankratz during round one of the WPIAL Class A girls basketball championship Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, at Baldwin High School.

Maddy Casale is not wasting any time on making her senior season count.

Through the first four games this season, the Sewickley Academy senior point guard is averaging 18.8 points, 6 rebounds and 5.8 steals. Casale scored 26 points in the Panthers' 50-26 win at Avella on Dec. 7.

“I think in the past I was worried a lot about scoring and trying to do all this and putting a lot of pressure on myself,” Casale said. “This year, I'm trying to have a little bit more fun and do whatever I can so we can win the section.”

Casale has been a four-year starter for Sewickley Academy. According to coach Kathi Stoddard, she's completely committed to basketball year round, practicing and playing on travel teams, like the Pittsburgh Rise, when Panthers' basketball in not in season.

Stoddard said Casale s a passionate player who loves the game. She's the kind of player who always wants the ball at the end of the game.

“She gives it her all and she's got heart,” Stoddard said. “You can't find a lot of players like that these days.

“She has that mentality of ‘I want the ball' and I think that's a sign of a winner. That's a sign of somebody who's going to be successful.”

Even during the school day, before team practice starts, Casale is working on her game.

She practices her shots in the gym in between classes. While other kids go outside or hang out in the cafeteria, she's knocking down free throws and 3s in her boots in the 10-to 20-minute breaks between classes.

Stoddard heard someone dribbling in the gym one day. When she walked in, she saw her star point guard.

“Every break she had, she was in the gym shooting the ball,” Stoddard said. ”I was just like ‘wow, there's not a lot of people who would do that.' ”

Shooting by herself is cathartic for Casale. It's one of the most calming things for her.

“It releases all of the stress, to shoot and be there on my own and have that time to myself,” Casale said. “At the end of the day, I love basketball and I'm happier knowing that I picked up a ball today.”

For the rest of the 2015 season, Casale has three goals for herself and her team. She wants to end her career as a Panther with 1,000 points, as only four girls have reached that milestone. But her two other goals are bigger for her; she wants Sewickley Academy to win Section 1-A and get past the first round of the WPIAL playoffs, something the team has failed to accomplish in the last two years.

Zach Brendza is a freelance writer.

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