Sewickley Academy girls want to continue momentum under new coach

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Saturday, December 7, 2019 | 10:25 AM


Last season, Sewickley Academy’s girls basketball team reached the PIAA Class A quarterfinals.

The Panthers want to top that. This group has two years to achieve it as well.

With no seniors on its roster, Sewickley Academy is thrilled to keep its squad together for this season and next.

“We’re really excited about that,” coach Mark Gaither said. “When you spend so much time together working and learning so much, it’s nice to keep that together. We talk about this being a family, and we’re very happy about being together for two years. We want to get better each and every day.”

Gaither is in his first year with the program. He got his coaching start as an assistant with the Sewickley Academy boys program and had stints as coach of the Ringgold, Bethel Park and Washington boys teams.

“Things have been great. We’re still getting to know each other and learning a lot of new stuff. But it’s a great group of girls that is working hard,” Gaither said. “Sewickley Academy is a special place for me. That’s where I started my coaching career, and it’s good to be back. I am really enjoying it and having fun.

“It’s been a good transition. The girls are excited for this new start and to try new things and compete. They had some success last year in the playoffs, and that really got them looking forward to this year. We’re hoping to build on that momentum.”

The Panthers beat California, 56-30, to open the WPIAL tournament but lost to West Greene in the quarterfinals. The team advanced to the PIAA tournament and knocked off North Clarion, 44-35, and St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy, 36-30. A loss to Berlin Brothersvalley ended the squad’s season at 14-9.

“To get to the state playoffs and win a couple games was huge,” junior Kamryn Lightcap said. “We have our bar set high. We have big expectations for ourselves. We’re hoping to go far in WPIALs and states again.”

Lightcap, a guard, and junior forward Bre Warner are returning starters. Juniors J.J. Jardini and Mia DelVecchio and sophomore Desirae Nance will be in the starting lineup for the Panthers. Freshmen Rinnie Jardini and Shea McCoy could see time as well.

“Things have been going really well. I think we’ve adjusted really well. I think we’re all really happy with our new coach. A lot of things have changed, but we’re all adapting and I think we’ll have a really successful season,” Lightcap said. “We have such a great opportunity these next two years and we want to see how far we go as a team. It’s a really fun opportunity for us.”

Last year, Section 1 produced three of the four WPIAL semifinalists (Rochester, Quigley and Vincentian). Sewickley Academy enjoys the challenge of playing those top teams during section play.

“I think it’s an exciting opportunity that we get to see those teams two times before the playoffs,” Lightcap said. “I think it’ll really benefit us to see how we need to play against them.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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