Class A boys final: Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic takes down Sewickley Academy
February 26, 2016 8:34 PM
Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic's Austin Sieminski, Erick Taylor and Tristan Newcamp hold their team's trophy after defeating Sewickley Academy Friday in the WPIAL Class A championship game at Petersen Events Center.
By Brian Batko / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Erick Taylor walked into the postgame news conference with a basketball and a big smile, ready to crack some jokes. Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic’s big man — and his coach, and his teammates — had plenty to be happy about Friday night.
After five years out of the spotlight, the Trojans are champions again.
Kenny Fukon led the way with 13 points, Zach Offi scored 12 with three 3-pointers, and Taylor added eight points and nine rebounds as the Trojans used suffocating defense once again to win their first WPIAL boys basketball championship since 2010 with a 50-36 victory against Sewickley Academy at Petersen Events Center.
Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic 50, Sewickley Academy 36
Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic takes on Sewickley Academy in WPIAL basketball action. (Video by Justin K. Aller; 02/26/2016)
The fourth-seeded Trojans (18-8) completed their impressive championship run, which went through No. 1 seed and heavy favorite Monessen in the semifinals, by holding the No. 2-seeded Panthers (23-3) to the fewest points in a WPIAL Class A boys final.
“That’s North Catholic basketball, it’s what we stress,” said coach Dave Long, whose third WPIAL title is also the third in school history. “Just trying to not get into footraces up and down the floor. We know we’re not completely blessed with all facets of the offensive game, so we like to stress that defense, slow it down.”
The Panthers were 14 of 48 from the field and finished with 13 turnovers. In four playoff games, the Trojans held three opponents below 40 points. Sewickley was on the good end of the previous championship low, beating Vincentian, 56-39, in 2004.
“After we beat Monessen, we felt we were better than every other team in [Class A],” said Fukon, who scored nine points in the fourth quarter to help the Trojans pull away. ”But we still had to come out and play hard.”
The title is also the first in Class A for the Trojans, who won their other two championships in Class AA. The Trojans were 4 of 4 from the field and made 13 of 17 free throws in the fourth.
They also held the Panthers, who were led by junior guard Chris Groetsch’s 13 points, to 4-of-21 shooting in the fourth.
“We didn’t shoot well at all,” Sewickley coach Win Palmer said. “I’m not sure if it was the different environment, but we just didn’t shoot well, and North Catholic played good defense, too.”
If Taylor, the Trojans’ imposing 6-foot-6 force in the post, felt any big-game nerves, he certainly didn’t show it.
Taylor was scoreless in the second half and sat out almost the entire third quarter after picking up two fouls in the first 41 seconds, but cleaned the glass when it mattered with six rebounds in the pivotal fourth. Still, his coaches and teammates joked he doesn’t play any defense in the middle of their zone.
The jovial Taylor took it all in stride, saying he could go for some championship donuts or wings. His username on Twitter is @chasingdat_ring, but all he and his teammates received for their victory Friday night was a gold medal — for now.
“Oh, we’re getting rings,” Taylor insisted. “We’re getting rings. Now my Twitter handle is going to be ‘got that ring.’ We got it.”
Brian Batko: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @BrianBatko.
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