Allderdice, Obama Academy gear up for City League title game at Duquesne’s Cooper Fieldhouse

Saturday, February 18, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Ethan Anish always enjoyed the thought of being able to play a game at Duquesne University’s gymnasium.

When Anish takes the court for Allderdice at 2 p.m Sunday UPMC’s Cooper Fieldhouse for the City League boys basketball championship game against Obama Academy, he will add more roots to his deep connection with the school.

Ethan’s dad, Eric, is the director of medicine for the Duquesne men’s basketball team, and his personal trainer, Jack Higgins, played at Duquesne after playing for Schenley High School.

Ethan said he’s had a lot of conversations with his dad and Higgins about playing at the venue.

“I thought it would be cool to play there,” Ethan Anish said. “Growing up around the program put everything in perspective. You get to see everything at a different level. With coaches Jimmy Ferry and (Keith) Dambrot, I was able to be around the locker room and see everything first-hand. It’s been really cool.”

Obama Academy coach Naron Jackson, who grew up in the Hill District, is also excited about the event being moved from the Petersen Events Center to Duquesne. He played in the Palumbo Center, the school’s old arena, plenty of times growing up.

“My best friend plays at Duquesne and recruited me to play there,” Jackson said. “I played there a lot. The new place it’s awesome, and the seating is more intimate. People are a lot closer where they sit further away at the Pete. I’m more excited for the kids than anything.”

The pressure will be on Allderdice, which is 20-3 and went 10-0 in league play, to defend its City League crown and winning streak against City opponents.

Allderdice has three senior starters in Sam Kelly, Antwon Ward-Thurman and Anish.

“It’s a result of staying locked in and keeping up with our goals,” Anish said. “We are really close and knew what we wanted at the start of the season. We are looking to win and play for each other.”

The Dragons have won 31 straight games against City League competition, including a sweep of Obama this season. The Dragons’ last loss came to the Eagles during the 2020 City League championship game.

“We are always focused on preparing for each game,” Allderdice coach Devin Crummie said. “We understand what we need to do in order to be successful against each team. Being in the City League, you are close in proximity to most schools, so you know the personnel well. We try to get out and scout every team.”

The Eagles (10-9, 7-3) bring a unique skillset to the table. Obama Academy will have five guards in the starting lineup. Since the preseason, the Eagles had some players leave the team and other factors impacted the size of their lineup.

Obama doesn’t have a player over 6-foot-2 in the lineup and will look to lean on its defense.

“This was the first time all year they realized our DNA is defense,” Jackson said after practice. “That’s who we are. There’s no way around it. We started five guards, but we are all different types of guards. Our roles are different. They are starting to buy into, we get stops.”

The Eagles are the only team in the City League to lose by less than 10 points to the Dragons this season.

Freshman point guard Naron Jackson helps set the table for the Eagles, while Torrien Perkins is counted on to help rebound and tackle a lot of other tasks for Obama.

Coach Naron Jackson said while Obama doesn’t have the depth Allderdice does, the Eagles should be one of the more fit teams in Western Pennsylvania.

“A lot of our guys play 32 minutes,” Jackson said. “That’s why we are in shape. Sometimes it works and sometimes it kills us. There are a few games where we were winning at halftime and we ran out of juice.”

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