Sewickley Academy boys look to compete in tough section

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Sunday, December 4, 2022 | 11:01 AM


The Sewickley Academy boys basketball team is a member of Section 1-2A again this season, but the section itself has a different feel to it.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart won the section title last season then went on to capture WPIAL and PIAA championships and finish with a 28-0 record.

OLSH, Springdale and Riverview are gone from Section 1-2A this year, replaced by Aliquippa, Freedom, New Brighton and Rochester. Shenango and South Side Beaver round out the section.

SA ended up with a 1-8 record in league play and 3-13 overall in 2021-22.

“While last year was truly a rebuilding year,” coach Win Palmer said, “the foundation has been put into place for this year’s team to compete for a WPIAL playoff berth, with a long-range goal of continuing our growth in future years to compete for WPIAL championships and successful runs in the state tournament.”

Two returning starters for the Panthers are senior guard Colin Helbling and sophomore forward Nolan Donnelly, who led the team in scoring as a freshman.

“In terms of my early expectations, I think there could always be some speed bumps in the beginning of the year,” Helbling said. “However, I believe our team can compete. We’ve definitely got a tough section, but I expect us to compete. That’s a consistent theme when it comes to our goals.

“When it comes to personal goals, I just want to do whatever I can to keep us as a competitive team. I want to be a leader and bring energy to the guys. I want us to not just make the playoffs, but really compete and make some noise.”

Helbling, who has a 3.82 GPA, plans to play baseball at SA in the spring.

“My No. 1 choice for college is Penn State’s business school,” he said.

Two other players who made contributions last season are junior guard Alex Wang and sophomore forward Quinton Gibbs-Green. Sam Haddux, a junior forward, also is looking to make an impact in 2022-23.

Top freshmen include Tomiwa Adewumi, Caiden Battles, Lucas Grimsley and Amare Spencer.

“I think length is one of our strengths this year,” Helbling said. “We’ve got Sam, who’s 6-foot-plus, and Amare, who’s around the same height. Both are new additions. Sam will be a huge help down low with his length and he really likes to bring the energy. Then we’ve got me, Quinton and Nolan over 6-foot. Alex is up there too.

“We’ve been playing together throughout the summer, and I think a lot of the team has really bonded and that shows on the court. The new freshmen have also been very energetic and competitive players. They will make us a lot better.”

Palmer has been impressed by the performance of the Panthers during preseason practices.

“I’m very proud of the efforts our players are making to return our program to our high standards of hard work and expectations,” Palmer said. “With a wonderful mixture of leadership from our older players and potential growth from an outstanding group of freshmen and sophomores, this team will be fun to watch.

“The progression will involve both successes and failures as our younger players become comfortable becoming decision-makers at the varsity level. Failure is necessary in order to learn from those moments and to become a program that competes for championships as we have done throughout the 21st century.”

The Panthers have won nine section championships since the start of the new millennium, five WPIAL titles including back-to-back championships in 2017 and 2018, and two state crowns.

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