Shady Side Academy boys beaming with confidence after big wins, playoff seeding

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Saturday, February 27, 2021 | 9:01 AM


At the beginning of this season, no one expected the Shady Side Academy boys basketball team to be much of a threat.

The Bulldogs only had three seniors and a few starters returning from last year, but they were also going to be very young. At times this season, they have started two juniors, two freshmen and a sophomore. But their season has gone better than expected, and they’ve put themselves into the spotlight.

When the WPIAL revealed the boys basketball brackets on Feb. 23, the Bulldogs were awarded the WPIAL Class 3A No. 3 seed after going 12-2 and averaging 64 points per game while only allowing 45.4. They also took down WPIAL Class 3A No. 1 South Allegheny in their second matchup of the season, 68-61, solidifying their position as one of the best in the classification.

“To be a top four seed is always nice, but as we talked all year long, it was not projected or really expected by anybody,” Shady Side Academy coach David Vadnais said. “So to have the season that we have and end up with the No. 3 seed is great. The guys are excited, and we want to continue to play good basketball and put our best foot forward.”

The Bulldogs are set to play the winner of No. 14 Apollo-Ridge and No. 19 Beth Center at 6 p.m. Thursday at Fox Chapel.

No matter who ends up in front of the Bulldogs, Vadnais knows they’ll have tough competition ahead of them. They’ve already played Apollo-Ridge twice this season, winning both games by a combined 20 points, and Beth Center has an overall record of 5-8.

“Knowing that there is a good chance we see Apollo-Ridge again makes it a little tricky because they are a good team,” Vadnais said. “Either way, you have to play good teams. Whoever comes out of that game, we just know that we are going to have to face a good team in our first game, and we are going to have to be ready right away.”

Throughout this season, the Bulldogs have proved that they can play with the best. On top of their two victories over Apollo-Ridge, they split their regular season series with South Allegheny and also competed with WPIAL Class 6A powerhouse Fox Chapel.

They’ve proven themselves time and time again and receiving the No. 3 seed was just validation for them heading into the playoffs.

“It validates what we’ve done all year, and it proves to our guys that our record isn’t a false one,” Vadnais said. “It proves that we’ve gone out and played some good teams and beat some good teams, and it proves that we can play with anyone. It’s very rewarding, and it gives our guys confidence.”

While their end-of-season seeding boosted their confidence, Shady Side’s win over South Allegheny on Feb. 17 sent it into the upper atmosphere. Behind 20 points from junior Thompson Lau, 15 from junior Alex Kramer and 10 from both sophomore Ethan Salvia and freshman Eli Teslovich, the Bulldogs erased multiple eight- or nine-point leads and finished the game with a 10-0 run to complete their biggest victory of the season.

It was part of a seven-game winning streak.

“It was huge for us, and when we played them there, they jumped on us a couple times and we were not able to respond,” Vadnais said. “Where this time around, they got up on us multiple times and every time they had a chance to get it up to double-digits, we got a stop or a bucket. Our guys just believed.”

“We just want to keep walking that line of being confident but also relying on the fact that we work really hard and play as a team. We don’t want to expect games to get handed to us.”

All season long, Vadnais has gotten production from players up and down his lineup. Teslovich, Salvia and freshman Peter Kramer have all stepped up on different occasions, but as of late, Lau has been carrying the load for the Bulldogs.

After Shady Side’s victory over South Allegheny, Lau scored 22 points in the next game against Apollo-Ridge, then tacked on 18 more against Steel Valley. In the loss to Fox Chapel, he added 17 as well.

Vadnais said Lau is starting to settle in and produce the type of numbers he was hoping he would.

“He’s really stepped up, and he’s doing what I had hoped he’d do from the beginning,” Vadnais said. “But Thompson is as unselfish of a player as I’ve ever coached, and it’s hard to get him to just go attack the hope and take advantage of his matchup. He makes great decisions, but we’ve been able to get him going a little bit more the last few games.”

As the postseason approaches, the Bulldogs are hitting their stride and after a surprising year, they are ready to finish it off with a deep run.

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

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