Indians ready to climb the Mountain
Senior guard Mark Lovett needs 13 points to become the school's leading career scorer. |
All-time leader Dean Kartsonas has 1,890 points.
Shady Side has five more games left if it can reach the PIAA Class AA title game in Hershey March 24.
Lovett, who will play at Yale, would have to average about 25 points per game in order to become the 17th player in WPIAL history to eclipse the 2,000-point career mark.
But a turnover and a lay-up with seven seconds to play gave Sto-Rox a 41-38 victory and its seventh WPIAL title in the school's 35-year history.
But Shady Side Academy (24-4) gets a fresh start as the PIAA playoffs get underway Saturday.
The Indians will play District 5 runner-up Tussey Mountain (23-4) at 1:30 p.m. at North Allegheny High School.
The winner will face either District 1 champion Fairfield or Washington, the sixth seed from the WPIAL, in the second round.
Shady Side Academy would like nothing better than to end this season the way it ended last season - with a PIAA state championship.
It will be a tough road once again, beginning with Saturday's encounter at the same location where the Indians started their improbable 1999-2000 title drive.
A year ago this weekend, Shady Side outlasted upset-minded Saegertown in overtime to earn a first round victory. Lovett's 3-pointer at the buzzer sent the game into overtime, and Shady Side prevailed, 68-65.
The biggest challenge for coach Will Saunders thus far has been learning about Shady Side's opponent.
'It's like we're playing a ghost team,' Saunders said. 'You go in playing the type of team you don't know anything about.'
The Titans, under 28th-year coach Dave Bailey (497-223), played at the Class A level last season and advanced to the PIAA Western Region semifinals, losing to WPIAL champion Cornell.
Playing at Class AA this season, Tussey Mountain lost the PIAA District 5 championship game to undefeated Windber, 57-55.
Like Shady Side, Tussey Mountain had a chance to pull out the game, but a forced inside pass resulted in a turnover and a Windber victory.
Instead of trying to schedule scrimmages with teams still alive, Saunders has the Indians working on fundamentals.
'We want to get back to some basics,' he said. 'We're going to go light and hard on alternate days.'
The fifth-year head coach is concerned about the Indians' two top players - guard Mark Lovett and forward Eli Friedman - getting into recent foul trouble.
Both were whistled out of last Saturday's game against Sto-Rox.
'They've fouled out of the two biggest games of the season, and we want to see what we can do not to expose them,' Saunders said. 'We have to work on our free throws, too. We missed 10 or 11 against Aliquippa and 10 more against Sto-Rox.'