Shady Side Academy boys weather storm as injuries hit

Saturday, February 4, 2023 | 11:01 AM

The Shady Side Academy basketball team never planned on being a half-court, defensive-oriented team. But circumstances have changed how the Bulldogs have had to approach things down the stretch.

Shady Side Academy lost senior guard Ethian Salvia to a torn ACL and has played several games without Eli Teslovich, who has a sprained ankle. Despite that, the Bulldogs are in the running to win Section 3-3A.

Shady Side Academy strung together a four-game winning streak, including three victories where the Bulldogs held their opponents to 44 points or less.

“That’s not something we planned on doing before the season,” Shady Side Academy coach Dave Vadnais said. “It’s something we’ve worked on since Ethan and Eli went down. We have had to commit to guarding. With Ethan and Eli out, we’re playing more guys. It’s about guarding and owning our assignments.”

At the end of January, Shady Side Academy was 13-4 overall and 8-1 in section play. The Bulldogs were tied with Deer Lakes, which beat Shady Side Academy, 53-51, earlier this season, for first place.

What has helped the more deliberate strategy work is the results.

“Winning these games helps us get buy in,” Vadnais said. “If you are losing these games, it’s not a positive or productive experience. We’ve found ways to win. You can’t put a price tag on getting this experience.”

While missing two key players isn’t ideal, the Bulldogs have benefited from getting other players valuable experience. Guard Nico Matt, sophomore guard/forward Seamus Riordan and junior forward Nate Mallory have all stepped up.

For Riordan, he said he has been counted on to try and pursue the ball aggressively.

“My role has changed that I’m asked to guard the best ball handler or scorer,” Riordan said. “It’s different to not play more help defensively. I’m able to stay in front of my guy and not reach for the ball. I don’t want to let anyone blow past me.”

Teslovich will return by the time the postseason rolls around. He convinced Vadnais to allow him to play in Shady Side Academy’s 65-56 win over Valley on Jan. 27. Teslovich played in the first few minutes of the game, scored seven points to reach 1,000, then exited quickly.

“It was nice of Valley to stop the game and recognize him,” Vadnais said. “We used that opportunity to get him out of the game. It was clear he wasn’t ready yet. I don’t know how he was able to do what he did.”

Vadnais will look forward to welcoming Teslovich back to the lineup. However, Shady Side Academy has proven it has the depth to weather the storm. The Bulldogs are prepared to play at whatever pace is necessary.

“We’re focused on being strong in the half-court this year,” Vadnais said. “I have new staff and they brought their own ideas. It’s worked well together. We’ve taken parts of their pasts and added new dynamics to our offense to get the looks we want.”

Riordan said the Bulldogs have adjusted well.

“It was a little bit of an adjustment,” Riordan said. “We always like to run and press a little differently. We emphasize the half court and defensively want to throw other teams off guard.”


More Basketball

Trib HSSN 2023-24 WPIAL Class A girls basketball preseason breakdown
Trib HSSN 2023-24 WPIAL Class A boys basketball preseason breakdown
Starting 5: A primer for 2023-24 boys basketball season in the A-K Valley
Starting 5: A primer for 2023-24 girls basketball season in Westmoreland County
Starting 5: A primer for 2023-24 boys basketball season in Westmoreland County