Late surge carries Shady Side Academy boys past Apollo-Ridge

Friday, February 19, 2021 | 9:39 PM

Even after Shady Side Academy sustained a 30-point loss in the opening round of last year’s WPIAL playoffs, coach David Vadnais felt good about his program going forward.

His confidence has paid off this season as the Bulldogs moved a step closer to the Section 3-3A title Friday night with a 51-42 victory at Apollo-Ridge.

Shady Side, no longer nicknamed the Indians, staged a 12-2 surge to ice the victory after Klay Fitzroy’s fadeaway basket had cut the Bulldogs lead to 39-37.

Junior forward Thompson Lau poured in 22 points to pace the effort for the Bulldogs, now 9-1 in the section and 11-1 overall. Shady Side won 10 games all of last season.

“The big difference was we made some shots,” Vadnais said of the late run. “We just struggled all game to make anything — inside, outside. We were able to get some turnovers and get into transition and make some layups.”

With the game still up for grabs, two breakaway layups by freshman Eli Teslovich and four points and four rebounds by another freshman, Peter Kramer, helped make the difference.

Shady Side will be in the WPIAL playoffs for the 18th consecutive season.

Apollo-Ridge slipped to 4-3, 6-3.

“Shots didn’t fall for us, and we got a little run-down,” Vikings coach Greg Fox said. “I didn’t sub much. We’re missing a few players right now. But give them credit, they go eight or nine deep.”

Klay Fitzroy led Apollo-Ridge with 15 points but picked up his fourth personal foul with 3 minutes, 12 seconds to go after Ethan Salvia stole the ball at midcourt.

Said Fox: “We had to come out of our zone (defense) and go man-for-man and they score four layups in a row. They’re a good team, and it’s a tough matchup. All five guys can shoot.”

Indeed, Vadnais said a key element is balanced scoring.

“Our five starters all average nine to 14 points,” he said. “I think we’ve only had three games where somebody’s scored over 20 points. We just really spread it out, and they trust that everybody will get theirs eventually.”

Senior guard Keighton Reese had four 3-point field goals, all in the second half, to keep the Vikings close. In fact, his first trey gave Apollo-Ridge what would be its biggest lead, 24-20, midway through the third period. Reese finished with 14 points.

Fitzroy hit a 3-pointer to beat the second-quarter buzzer.

“Both teams were trying to settle in for a defensive battle,” Fox said. “But we had some good shots in the first half. We just couldn’t finish at the bucket, and their offensive rebounding just killed us.”

The first half went quickly with few stoppages of play. Both teams had a minimal amount of turnovers and Shady Side committed just four team fouls in the first half. Apollo-Ridge only had five.

“We didn’t return a lot of guys this year,” Vadnais said. “We had three guys with varsity experience. They worked really hard in the offseason, and the two freshmen have come in and made a big difference for us. They wanted to get better, and they didn’t like that feeling in the locker room last year after being embarrassed.”

The Vikings will try to get back on the winning track Saturday afternoon with a make-up game at 2:30 p.m. at Ligonier Valley.

Shady Side and South Allegheny each have one loss — defeating each other in section play this season. The South Allegheny win Friday night against Ligonier Valley put the Gladiators a half-game behind the Bulldogs.

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