Second-half improvement makes tough season ‘enjoyable’ for Sewickley Academy boys

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Sunday, February 20, 2022 | 11:01 AM


It was a rough year for Sewickley Academy basketball.

SA’s boys team lost six of its last seven games to end up 3-13 overall and 1-8 in Section 1-2A.

“Due to covid concerns, we had only two practices and no games for over two weeks,” SA coach Win Palmer said. “We played no JV and middle school games, so we had a group of players who were two years removed from game action.

“But our season was actually quite enjoyable. The progress both the individual players and the team made from the beginning of the season to the end was truly remarkable.”

Another distraction for the Panthers was the schedule. They did not play their first home game until Jan. 7 in a section matchup with Springdale.

Yet another difference was the lack of experience on the 2021-22 squad compared to the senior-laden group the year before.

“After graduating eight seniors and having a freshman transfer to a school in Indiana, we returned only one player who played any type of meaningful minutes a year ago,” Palmer said. “Add to that a covid pause with an 18-day stretch in the middle of the season when we played no games, we had every excuse to just want the season to go away.”

Sewickley’s veteran floor boss indicated the four seniors on this year’s team — Sean Donohue and Saverio Mignella in the backcourt and Jack Wyche and Josh Chico in the frontcourt — provided outstanding leadership all year.

Donahue and Mignella primarily manned the shooting guard position. Wyche was a power forward and Chico a small forward. Donohue also participates in soccer at SA and has been a two-year starter in both sports.

“Through the leadership of our four seniors,” Palmer said, “our guys played their best basketball upon returning from the pause. Teams that beat us badly the first time in section play, we either defeated the second time around or played them tough, battling to the very end. Practices were outstanding with great effort, a desire to get better and the team bonded through all of the adversity that we faced.

“The students at the academy supported the team with vigorous enthusiasm at home games.”

Other instrumental players for the Panthers included junior Colin Helbling, sophomore Alex Wang and freshman Nolan Donnelly, who began putting up big numbers this season with efforts of 23, 26 and 33 points in one stretch.

“Having completed my 41st season as a head coach, I can truly say this year’s team represented the best of our sport education model,” Palmer said, “which focuses on getting better, learning the strategies of the sport, demonstrating sportsmanship, competing hard as a team and having fun.

“This year’s team has built the foundation for future teams at the academy as we all look forward to watching them compete successfully with pride.”

One of the highlights for the Panthers this season was their turnaround performance against section foe Riverview. After losing a 53-35 decision to the Raiders early in the season, Sewickley defeated the same opponent by a 57-47 score 24 days later.

Palmer, who is assisted by Almamy Thiero and A.J. Nagel, has coached at SA for 21 years and currently has a career record of 707-330.

The Panthers have won 10 section championships with the most recent in 2018. Sewickley also has won five WPIAL titles, including consecutive crowns in 2017-18.

SA has been a PIAA finalist four times, winning state titles in 1997, 2010 and 2017.

The Panthers undoubtedly will be aiming to get back onto the playoff track next season.

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