Loaded Sewickley Academy girls roster includes 5 returning starters and then some

Sunday, December 6, 2020 | 10:16 AM

The excitement in coach Mark Gaither’s voice was through the roof.

Just one year after achieving an overall record of 14-12 and earning a berth into the WPIAL Class A semifinals, the Sewickley Academy girls basketball team is returning all five of its starters and then some.

“We have a lot of experience with five seniors, and it’s not every year you can return 100% of your team in every statistical category,” Gaither said. “We’re excited about that, but we’re not taking it for granted either. Nothing is going to be handed to us either.”

Along with returning five starters — J.J. Jardini, Kamryn Lightcap, Mia DelVecchio, Desirae Nance and Bre Warner — the Panthers have also added former Quigley Catholic guard Hailey Drutarosky.

Drutarosky, who transferred after Quigley Catholic closed its doors at the end of last school year, strengthens the Panthers lineup even more.

“She was their leading scorer last year and she’s a guard, so getting her is a big bump for us, and we’re hoping to play as many games as possible with this group,” Gaither said.

Last season was a special one for the Panthers as they got off to a slow start, losing four of their first five games. But as the season carried on, the Panthers became more cohesive as a team.

Lightcap finished the season averaging 14.4 points a game, and the Panthers won nine of their last 11 games leading into their semifinal matchup with West Greene.

The Panthers pushed the Pioneers to the brink but lost by a point. A loss like that gives the Panthers even more confidence heading into this season.

“We were the second team in the history of the girls basketball program to advance to the WPIAL semifinals,” Gaither said. “So, we were excited in that regard, and we really grew as the season went on. A few teams had handled us early on in the season, but by the end of the season, we had developed and grown so much as a team that the tables were turned. We’re excited to keep that momentum and learning curve growing.”

In order to maintain momentum, the Panthers will have to test themselves even more against bigger schools. As a part of realignment, they were bumped up in classification and were placed in Section 1-2A with Aliquippa, Neshannock, New Brighton, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Shenango and South Side Beaver.

The Panthers were tested in section play last season with matchups against Rochester and Vincentian Academy, and they also played a tough nonsection schedule with matchups against Lincoln Park, Aliquippa, Winchester Thurston, West Greene twice and Quaker Valley.

They became battle-tested, and now, the Panthers are looking forward to their next challenge.

“We’re excited about the challenge, facing new teams, new opponents, going into new gyms, and we’re really looking forward to that,” Gaither said. “In our nonconference schedule last season, we played a lot of teams in other classifications, so we’re excited.”

The Panthers have big goals and playing in a new conference can be tricky, but with a full roster returning, they are poised for a breakout season and quite possibly have the talent to bring home Sewickley Academy’s first section championship since 2004.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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