Sewickley Academy edges rival OLSH to defend WPIAL Class 2A boys title

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Friday, March 2, 2018 | 6:39 PM


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After just 10 minutes under the Petersen Events Center lights, Sewickley Academy owned a 21-point lead and was ready for a championship rout.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart then scored 15 in a row.

The run unraveled the rout before halftime, and suddenly the defending champion was left worrying whether its repeat bid was in doubt.

"When I went into the locker room, I could see some eyes that were unsure," said Sewickley coach Win Palmer, who starts three sophomores. "I just said: 'Reset. We're good. We played a great first half. Who cares (about that run)?'"

The WPIAL finals can cause emotional highs and lows, and the two teams Friday endured both extremes as Sewickley Academy sweated out a 63-59 victory over section rival OLSH in the WPIAL Class 2A final.

OLSH forced a tie with five minutes left in the fourth but never led.

"I knew they were going to have a run because they're a good team," Sewickley sophomore Isiah Warfield said. "We had to keep playing and battling and eventually pull out the win."

Sewickley lost its lead but not its composure.

The WPIAL title was the second in a row for No. 1 seed Sewickley Academy (21-4), which celebrated a 71-60 victory over No. 2 OLSH (22-3) in the finals last season.

It was Sewickley's fifth WPIAL title overall.

Junior Nate Ridgeway led the Panthers with 17 points and 10 rebounds, Warfield scored 16 and senior David Groetsch added 11. Sophomore Isaiah Smith scored 12 points and converted 3 of 4 free throws in the final 19 seconds.

Freshman point guard Dante Spadafora led OLSH with 16 points including 12 in the second half. Spadafora scored the Chargers' first 10 in the fourth quarter and forced a tie at 47 with a driving layup and foul shot.

But OLSH was outscored 16-12 in the final five minutes.

"We expended so much effort to come back," OLSH coach Mike Rodriguez said. "I think that was the difference in the game. We probably were a little tired, but that's on me. I could have gone to our bench a little bit more, but I thought our guys were playing well in the comeback and I didn't want to change that momentum."

Ricco Tate scored 14 points, Donovan Johnson had 13 points and Austin Wigley added 10 for OLSH.

Tied 47-47 in the fourth, Sewickley's Warfield and Ridgeway scored consecutive layups to lead by four with 4:40 left. Panthers sophomore Jett Roesing made a 3-pointer a minute later, and his teammates converted 7 of 8 from the foul line in the final minute to win.

Johnson had a chance to tie with 10 seconds left, but the OLSH sophomore's 3-pointer bounced away.

"I thought it was going in," Rodriguez said. "We got what we wanted … and normally he makes those things. He felt bad afterward but I said: Hey, we got the shot we wanted. Sometimes it goes in. Sometimes it doesn't."

The rivals could meet again this season in the state semifinals. They'd split their two regular-season matchups by seven points combined, so a rout in the WPIAL finals seemed very unlikely.

But Sewickley jumped to an 8-2 lead that reached 29-8 in the second quarter before OLSH's furious rally just before halftime. The Chargers finished the first half on a 19-3 run and scored the final 15 points.

OLSH trailed 32-27 at half.

Sewickley went more than four minutes in the second quarter without a basket but needed just 45 seconds after halftime to rid itself of that slump. The team started the third quarter with consecutive layups by Roesing and Smith to lead 36-27.

"The goal for the second half was to take four, five, six passes before we took a shot," Palmer said. "We did that. Then when Jett (Roesing) scored and we got another bucket, I just felt like that (first-half worry) was gone. If we'd come out and struggled and they scored, then I think it would have stayed in our head."

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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