Sewickley Academy maintains mastery of Jeannette, reaches semifinals

Friday, February 22, 2019 | 10:23 PM

Sewickley Academy led from start-to-finish in dispatching Jeannette from the WPIAL boys basketball playoffs Friday night at Canon-McMillan, but the Panthers weren’t skating to victory.

In the fourth playoff meeting in as many years between the schools, defending Class 2A champion Sewickley Academy survived Jeannette’s furious fourth-quarter rally to come out on top again.

Isiah Warfield scored 23 points and had 10 rebounds before fouling out with 2 minutes, 19 seconds left, to lead the third-seeded Panthers to a 47-44 victory over the sixth-seeded Jayhawks, advancing Sewickley Academy (13-8) to the semifinals Tuesday against No. 2 Serra Catholic (19-3) at a site to be determined.

Sewickley Academy, playing for the first time in 11 days, won for the fourth time in six games since the departure in late-January of leading scorer Nate Ridgeway for personal reasons.

“Our rebounding was outstanding,” Sewickley Academy coach Win Palmer said. “That was the difference in the game.”

The Panthers qualified for the PIAA playoffs with the victory; Jeannette (13-11) can join the field if the Panthers upset Serra Catholic in the semis.

“In past years, we’ve had the byes and I’m good with that,” Palmer said. “We had some experienced veterans. This group is a little different and perhaps we wanted to get some guys some seasoning, so they could play.

“And also, we were playing Jeannette, a tough bunch. They don’t let you get comfortable, but I don’t think our defense let them get comfortable. Thus, a barnburner, close game.”

Jeannette was bidding to pay back Sewickley Academy after the Panthers beat the Jayhawks, 64-56, in the PIAA Class 2A quarterfinals last season.

Sewickley Academy has owned Jeannette by winning the past four playoff meetings between the schools.

“Both teams know each other so well,” Palmer said. “Four years in a row now we’ve played each other in the playoffs. We know how each other plays.”

Sewickley Academy also defeated Jeannette in the WPIAL playoffs in the 2016 semifinals and the 2017 quarterfinals.

“To beat Sewickley, you’ve got to take advantage of second opportunities,” Jeannette coach Adrian Batts said. “They play hard. They compete. They play their roles very well.”

Batts agreed Sewickley Academy’s advantage on the boards was too much to overcome.

“(Warfield) is very good. He’s tough,” Batts said. “He was the difference.”

Trailing 21-14 at halftime, Jeannette came out firing in the third quarter and closed within two points on two occasions but wasn’t able to take a lead.

The Jayhawks would drift behind, then creep closer in a pattern that prevailed throughout the second half.

Jeannette outscored Sewickley Academy, 20-11, in the fourth quarter after falling behind 36-24 through three periods.

“I feel good about how we competed in the fourth quarter,” Batts said. “We were in a position to tie it and maybe push the game into overtime, or even win it.”

Freshman Anton Good pulled Jeannette within 46-44 with 7.7 seconds left, the Jayhawks’ last push before time ran out. After Good made the first of two free throws, he missed the second and Sewickley Academy’s Max Belt secured the rebound.

Good, attempting to steal the ball, collided with Belt near the Jeannette bench in a violent sequence that carried into Batts, flipping him onto the floor near the Jayhawks bench.

“I got rolled up like that 10 years ago and tore a meniscus,” Batts said. “I hit my head tonight on that play. I got a little dizzy, but I’m all right.”

Belt hit one of two free throws to give Sewickley Academy a three-point lead, and the Panthers held on when Jackson Pruitt’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer fell short.

Pruitt led Jeannette with 15 points. Marcus Barnes added 12 for the Jayhawks, who were making their fifth quarterfinals appearance in a row.

Sewickley Academy is attempting to reach the WPIAL championship game for a fourth consecutive season. During the six-game span following Ridgeway’s departure from the team, the Panthers also scored a 71-66 upset of top-seeded Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

Neither team produced much offensive punch in the first half.

Sewickley Academy scored the game’s first five points before Jeannette finally scored at the 3:37 mark of the first quarter.

The Jayhawks didn’t reach double figures until Pruitt’s layup with 2:35 remaining in the second quarter.

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