Sewickley Academy boys ready to rebound from 1st losing season since 2012-13

Sunday, November 29, 2020 | 11:01 AM

The Sewickley Academy boys basketball team is coming off its first losing season since 2012-13 but with a lack of size, and experience, it could’ve been worse.

“These are really good kids and we actually overachieved to have the record that we did,” Sewickley Academy coach Win Palmer said. “We ended up in a lot of close games that we probably shouldn’t have been in. Now, these guys want to get over the edge with those close games, and our goal is to keep us involved in close games.”

The Panthers finished last season with an overall record of 7-13 and earned a spot in the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs, where they faced a strong Springdale team in the first round. The Panthers took the Dynamos to the brink and only lost by eight points in what Palmer said was one of their worst shooting performances of the season.

Now, with nine seniors and a ton of experience returning from last season, the Panthers are looking to take another step forward; they feel like they have the talent to get it done.

“In the past, we’ve had great seasons, and last year wasn’t that great in terms of how we usually do,” senior Max Belt said. “So, that’s definitely a motivator for this year because we know what we are capable of doing this season.”

Belt, a third-year starter, is one of a few seniors who will take center stage for the Panthers. He’s gone from a quiet freshman, who played a small role, to a senior who can hurt teams from the outside and has rounded his game out as time has gone on.

Senior guard George Zheng is another player who Palmer will rely on. He’s been around the program since he was a freshman and Palmer said he took a big step forward in the offseason with his shooting ability, which will open up more for him as a senior.

The Panthers may not be as talented, or as big, as some teams, but Palmer believes his senior leaders will carry the team this season

“There are probably some teams in double-A that are clearly more talented than us, but I think if we can rely on the heart and the heads of our seniors, then we’ll be competitive,” Palmer said. “But they are just excited to play because at one point they didn’t think they were going to have a senior year.”

Over the past few years, Sewickley Academy has shown an ability to shoot the ball, and Belt in particular has been a big part of that. But in order to not place limits on themselves, as they did against Springdale last year with a poor shooting night, Palmer believes they need to focus on improving their ability to score around the hoop.

Without a traditional big man, the Panthers might struggle to establish a paint presence, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be able to score on the inside.

“We’ve got some good shooters but one of the things we’re working on this year is our ability to score around the basket,” Palmer said. “Even though we’re small, you can still score around the basket, so that should offset for those nights where we aren’t hitting from outside.”

With their down year last season, the Panthers are looking to take another step this season and they have plenty of experienced players who have the ability to do so. Now, Belt and his fellow seniors are looking to lean on the experience they gained last year and turn it into a solid final season.

“Since we have a lot more seniors, I think we’ll be a lot more experienced,” Belt said. “Last year was kind of like a test for the players who didn’t get a ton of playing time the year before. It was kind of like just getting that extra experience that we needed for this year. So, I think we’re ready this year.”

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


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