Shady Side boys seek return to postseason |
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Shady Side Academy senior Jackson Fitzgerald warms up in practice.

Last year, the Shady Side Academy boys basketball team finished 14-9 and made it to the second round of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs. Second-year coach David Vadnais lost seven seniors from that team, including leading scorer Kyle Olander and starters Dan Marous and T-Jay Cleveland.

“That was a great group of guys that accepted their role and did whatever was needed to help the team win,” Vadnais said.

The Indians will return three starters — seniors Mike Ware (6-foot-4), Tyler Demchak (5-10) and Jackson Fitzgerald (6-0).

“All three will play important roles for us this year,” he said. “Tyler was our primary point guard last year and will be again this year, but he will also play a wing for us at times. Jackson is also a guard, but we will use him at all positions throughout the year. Mike is a unique player because he has very good size for double-A but he is more comfortable facing the hoop. So, similar to Jackson, Mike will play a lot of different positions this year.”

Other returning players are Dylan Groff, Alec Bernstein, Nick Andreos, and Sean Gramley.

“We expect all four to be more involved and contribute this year,” Vadnais said. “We have a handful of newcomers to the team this year. We have three guys returning to the team after not playing for either a year or two. Louis Berry decided to play basketball again. He is a winner that will add toughness to our team. Also coming back to the team are Conan Smith and Tim Granato — two guys I didn’t know a lot about, but in a short amount of time, I can tell they play hard and will give us everything they have when on the floor.

“We really like what the three of them bring to the team. We also added Jordan Conn. He is a junior that joined the school this year. He is a complete player that can score inside and knock down outside shots. Our last addition this year is a sophomore. Etai Groff is a complete player. He has good size and athleticism. We are excited about the new guys joining the team this year. We just need to get everyone caught up and on the same page.”

Vadnais said depth and versatility will be strengths.

“If our returning players take a step forward from last year and our new guys pick up our system, we have the potential to be a very deep team,” Vadnais said. “We also have a number of players that can play different positions. That allows us to move guys around and match up to our opponents and hopefully handle foul trouble a little better this year.”

Right now, Vadnais is looking for the type of go-to guy that Olander was last year.

“We don’t have a guy that can just get 20 points a night,” he said. “We have a couple guys that could potentially become that, but are not there yet. We don’t have any true post players this year. We have length but not your prototypical post guy. We need guys to buy into their roles. We will have 11 seniors and playing time will vary depending on the game.

“If guys don’t accept their role, it could pull our team apart from the inside. I’m also concerned about our half-court defense. We need to be able to guard without fouling. We put teams on the foul line way too much last year.”

Vadnais said Greensburg Central Catholic and Apollo-Ridge will be the top competition in Section 2-AA.

“What we need to do to compete with them is play unselfishly, rebound, and play good half-court defense,” Vadnais said. “Hopefully, we’ll find a go-to scorer as we progress through the year.”

Marty Stewart is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-782-2123 or [email protected].

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