Sewickley Academy boys basketball dispatches Leechburg

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Friday, February 23, 2018 | 11:30 PM


Sewickley Academy's all-around game might not have been its sharpest, but the Panthers' shooting certainly looked the part of a No. 1 seed.

Jett Roesing scored a career-high 31 points, including seven of Sewickley Academy's 11 3-pointers, and the Panthers used a series of runs to pull away from Leechburg, 83-49, in the WPIAL Class 2A quarterfinals Friday at Northgate.

Isaiah Smith added 16 points and seven assists for Sewickley Academy (19-4), the defending WPIAL and PIAA champs, who advance to face fifth-seeded Chartiers-Houston in the semifinals Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. Nate Ridgeway added 12 off the bench, and Isiah Warfield had 11 points for the Panthers.

“The layoff (from a first-round bye) helped us because last week we had the flu bug, and it wiped us out,” Sewickley Academy coach Win Palmer said. “We just took some time off (last week) and scrimmaged Monday. … Then we were ready to go.”

Christian Hack led Leechburg (14-7) with 17 points, and the senior guard and his teammates still could have another game. The Blue Devils would advance to the state tournament if Sewickley Academy reaches the WPIAL final.

Leechburg held its own early with the Panthers, trailing just 13-10 more than halfway through an up-tempo first quarter. Sewickley Academy sprang to life in the final 3 minutes of the quarter, going on a 13-1 run.

Just when Leechburg cut the margin to 28-19 and appeared to regain its footing, the Panthers struck again, scoring 10 consecutive points, including 3s by Smith and Roesing. The Panthers knocked down eight 3-pointers in the first half on the way to a 46-28 lead.

“The first couple minutes were up-and-down. The nerves were going, and we held our own. But to keep that up for four quarters with a very good team like that, it was going to be hard,” Leechburg coach Corey Smith said. “We knew going into it that we were going to have to play a perfect game, and we did not play a perfect game.”

Sewickley Academy, while efficient on offense with 22 assists on 32 field goals, suffered some lapses on the defensive end, at one point causing Palmer to call a timeout in frustration before his team's 10-0, second-quarter run.

“Their offense is really intricate, and they run it really good. But when I see guys go to sleep on plays … I'm a perfectionist,” Palmer said.

“For a first playoff game, I thought we showed some nerves at times. I was glad we were playing Leechburg, because they're a good ball club, they're well-coached and they made us do stuff. That's so much better than playing somebody who doesn't do much offensively, and you can get away with being lazy.”

Roesing had the biggest offensive day for the Panthers by making 12 of 20 shots from the floor, including 7 of 14 from beyond the arc. The sophomore, who said he had a bout of food poisoning last week while some teammates dealt with the flu, kept popping up on different spots on the court, scoring inside some and adding a couple of assists.

“I shoot a couple hundred shots a day, which really helps me out. A lot of it is preparation and reps,” Roesing said. “Last year, I didn't have much of that (movement). That's what I've really worked on, and it's helped me out and helped my team out — good ball movement and get the open shot.”

The Panthers put the game away by opening the second half with an 11-1 run, holding Leechburg without a field goal until a 3-pointer by Connor McDermott with 3 minutes, 8 seconds left in the third quarter. But after the game, Smith said he thinks the loss can help his Blue Devils grow.

“Sewickley's definitely the best team I've seen, and they shot lights-out tonight,” Smith said.

“The future's bright for Leechburg basketball, and to get to this point and see a team like Sewickley, you see how much you have to work, day-in and day-out, that's how you get better. Now, we're rooting for (Sewickley) because they can pull us into states, so we still have a chance.”

Matt Grubba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com

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