North Xtra: Sewickley showing progress

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Much like any coach in any sport, Win Palmer doesn't sleep well the night after a tough loss.

With his Sewickley Academy team losing to Clairton in the first round of the WPIAL Class A playoffs, 55-51, last Friday Palmer had every opportunity to feel that way coming off a loss that ended his team's season.

But as he gathered his players in the immediate moments after the loss, Palmer had a simple message -- he'd be all right.

"When your guys go all in, it's a great season," Palmer said. "And our guys were all in from day one. It was just incredible to coach these guys this year."

Despite the obvious disappointment that comes with a season-ending loss, Palmer had every reason to be pleased with how Sewickley performed this season. The Panthers finished 13-8, a five-win improvement from last season, and had their first winning season since 2009-10, a season in which they won the WPIAL and PIAA Class A championships.

Though Sewickley isn't quite to the level of that 27-2 team just yet, it is at least back on the path to those lofty heights -- all thanks to its progress this season.

"As far as I'm concerned, we righted the ship as a program this season," Palmer said. "We got back to playing winning basketball."

What exactly brought about this improvement? How did a program that went 28-38 the previous three seasons turn things around?

It began on the offensive end. After the graduation of Tom Droney -- who is now averaging 11.3 points per game as a senior for Davidson -- and a number of other players in 2010, the Panthers were too thin physically to consistently score inside. Largely out of necessity with an overpowered roster, they had to play at a much slower pace.

This season, with a more athletic roster, Palmer had some of his players work on certain skills in the offseason, the kind that have allowed the team to play at a faster, more free-flowing pace. Statistically, that improvement is showing. After averaging 49.2 points per game over the past three seasons, Sewickley averaged 60.2 points per game this season and was held to fewer than 50 points in just four of its 21 games.


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