Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Team of the Week for March 1, 2021

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Monday, March 1, 2021 | 11:41 PM


The Sewickley Academy boys basketball program has high expectations each year based on a solid foundation of success.

However, coming into the final week of the regular season, the Panthers were at .500 and dealing with a difficult postseason tuneup against last week’s Trib HSSN team of the week, Greensburg Central Catholic.

The same Centurions team that earned the No. 2 seed in the boys Class 2A tournament when the brackets came out Tuesday.

That same night, Sewickley Academy defeated Greensburg Central Catholic, 49-42.

“The victory over GCC was a culmination of all of the efforts and lessons learned in previous games against outstanding opponents,” Sewickley Academy coach Win Palmer said. “We had the lead the entire game against GCC until they hit a basket to take a one-point lead in the fourth quarter. Instead of panicking, we moved the ball and eventually found Max (Belt), who knocked down the shot, and we never trailed again.”

Palmer was asked if he could sense that the huge win had jolted his team with confidence heading into the playoffs.

“Actually, after the OLSH game (on Feb. 12) is when you could see the confidence improve as we figured out who we are and what we do,” he said. “Prior to that game, we were a mixture of elements and had difficulty playing consistent in stretches. After that game, we realized that if we had stayed with who we are and what we do, it could have remained a close game.

“The GCC game reinforced that despite our lack of size, we can be an outstanding defensive team and play to our strengths on offense. You notice the phrase, ‘Who we are and what we do.’ As we have made changes to our offense this year, our seniors have become comfortable with this slogan, which is theirs.”

With momentum and confidence, the Panthers pounded visiting Northgate in a 2A preliminary round game on Saturday, 55-15.

“So good to see our seniors focused and leading the team in the right way,” Palmer said. “It was a great team effort. We’re seeing defensive scores that are so different, holding Riverview to 16 points and Northgate to 15 points, as well as teams that average in the 70s being held to scores in the 40s.”

As they have all season, Panthers seniors Belt and George Zheng led the way offensively. Belt scored 24 points while Zheng added 11 points.

“Max and George are both four-year varsity players who have seen their roles increase each year,” Palmer said. “They have become quite comfortable with scoring for our team. They have the lost art of the pull-up jumper in addition to making 3s and finishing around the rim.

“George hit the game winner against Shenango, and Max has put a number of teams away with made free throws towards the end of the game. We see a number of junk defenses, and we just play disciplined basketball and stick to our principles. Much credit goes to our other players for becoming smart offensive players in addition to tough defenders.”

If Sewickley Academy goes on another deep playoff run, Palmer believes their tough schedule has a lot to do with it.

“Our section is so good,” he said. “OLSH is clearly the best team in AA and one of the better teams in the WPIAL. Shenango is impressive physically and has really improved. Springdale has one of the best players in AA in Dimitri Fritch. South Side has a good team, and Riverview played people tough.

“In 2017, when we won the WPIAL and PIAA championships, we didn’t win the section. If you fall short, that’s fine as long as you prepared properly and gave it your best shot while playing together as a team.”

Up next for Palmer’s team is a Class 2A first-round game Wednesday at Carlynton. The Cougars finished the season in second place behind Sto-Rox with a 12-4 overall record.

“Carlynton is really good, well-coached and with tough kids who know how to compete,” Palmer said. “They lead 2A in defensive scoring and we’re second, so if folks are expecting a game in the 70s, they need to watch another game on TribLive. If you like good fundamental basketball, then this is the game to watch.

“I recognize that high scoring basketball, shooting a ton of 3s and high-volume shots has become the model for today’s game. We have had teams that have played that style, but it is imperative that a coaching staff evaluates what style best suits that year’s players and conform their style to that. Carlynton has done exactly that, which will make them tough to beat.”

2021 Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Team of the Week

Week 6 – Greensburg Central Catholic Centurions

Week 5 – Gateway Gators

Week 4 – Frazier Commodores

Week 3 – Shady Side Academy Bulldogs

Week 2 – Fox Chapel Foxes

Week 1 – Thomas Jefferson Jaguars

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