Sewickley Academy basketball teams used openers as celebration of hard work

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Sunday, January 10, 2021 | 9:01 AM


Before Gov. Tom Wolf put a three-week pause on high school athletics across the state, the Sewickley Academy boys and girls basketball teams were able to reward their players for all their hard work with a game.

The boys won a nonsection matchup over Cornell, 68-40, and the girls did the same with a 44-37 victory over Eden Christian to kick off their season before it got put on hold for three weeks. While both teams took a lot of information away from their matchups, they wanted to celebrate the opportunity to just take the court.

“I know it sounds so simple, but one of the most important things was that it was just fun. It was fun to actually play a game before the shutdown where you didn’t know if you might come back,” coach Win Palmer said. “I just remember the looks on the kids’ faces before the game and after the game and they were just happy. That was the most important thing.”

With an experienced and talented team of seniors, coach Mark Gaither and the girls team got the opportunity to see exactly how well they will mesh together this season with two scrimmages leading into their game with Eden Christian.

Senior guard Hailey Drutarosky, who joined Sewickley Academy after Quigley Catholic shut down at the end of the 2020 school year, and several other young players were able to show how they fit into the offense.

Emotions were riding high after the news of the shutdown, and Gaither said their matchup with Eden Christian was a good way to celebrate what they had done so far.

“We had two good scrimmages, which were really big for us in that regard and getting those under our belt, that Friday game was also great for us too, but for different reasons,” Gaither said. “The two days leading up to it were so disappointing because of the news of the shutdown, so we were just thankful to play.”

Now, with teams approved to get back on the court and play in games after getting in the required number of practices, the Panthers are putting in work for the rest of the season.

Palmer said that, just like with everyone else, this season will be different for his players and the way they approach games. With the WPIAL implementing a plan to allow all teams into the postseason tournament, no matter their record, there is no rush on getting into peak form as soon as games start back up.

For the boys team, Palmer said he’s going to utilize his bench even more this season as his team gets back into shape and tries to reach peak form around tournament time.

“You have to go deep into your bench. I think the solution is that simple,” Palmer said. “We are requiring our kids to wear masks at all times, so that adds another component to the conditioning factor, so we were already planning on substituting more frequently and being deeper. Our kids know that we are going to be playing, nine, 10, 11 kids every game”

For the girls, Gaither said it’s been a balancing act for him and his players since they’ve returned because there is so much to do to get prepared. At the same time, he wants his players to enjoy being back.

“We’re trying to mix and make the most out of it with four days left before we play,” Gaither said. “So we’re trying to jam everything in and try to get back to where we were before the shutdown started. We’re just really glad that we get the chance to play.”

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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