PITTSBURGH — On Friday night, Shady Side Academy used a strong second-half run to earn the victory over Avonworth and claim the WPIAL class 3A title by a score of 66-54 at the Petersen Events Center.
The two teams found themselves in a tight battle after one half of play. Avonworth’s star freshman Rowan Carmichael came out firing, leading the Antelopes with some early three pointers and crafty lay-ups. Shady Side was playing together, making all the smart plays and looking to its young guns for production. However, while the first half was filled with entertaining action, neither team could pull away early.
But then, when the second half began, Shady Side flipped the switch and completely took over.
“I was happy we rebounded from the early start that we were down, and I was confident that we would score in the second half,” said Shady Side head coach David Vadnais. “I thought we missed a lot of make-able shots. I was pleased that we gave up seven points in the second quarter, we guarded much better. I just felt we would start scoring. We averaged 65, 66 points all year. We started to see the ball go in the hoop a little bit, and we got the pace picked up. We really prefer to play up and down, and we gave up some points to them. but the pace of the game really fit our style.”
The Bulldogs came out of the break on a dominant 20-7 run, led by guard Eli Teslovich, who hit five of his seven shots in the half, and the rest of the squad that seemed to complement each other perfectly. Sophomore forward Peter Kramer was thriving off the ball, getting open and hitting shots from outside while also setting up his cutting teammates.
Kramer was also the one who put an exclamation point on the Bulldogs’ massive run with the play of the night. While Teslovich was leading a fast-break, the 6-foot-3 sophomore Kramer slowed down a bit to turn a one-on-one chance into a two-on-one, with Kramer shooting down the right wing.
“When I was at half court, I saw Peter ahead of me and the kid was kind of right there in the middle, so I knew I couldn’t throw it too early,” Teslovich said. “But, as soon as I saw him, I knew what was going to happen. I knew when I threw it up, he was putting it down.”
All it took was one look for Teslovich to realize the potential of this fast-break, and he was not going to let that opportunity go. He did just what he said, lobbing up an alley-oop pass right past the defender’s face for Kramer, who elevated up and slammed home the emphatic dunk, extending the lead to 13 and giving the Bulldogs all of the momentum.
The Bulldogs kept the pressure on throughout the rest of the half, leading by as much as 22 and coming out with the victory by 12.
In addition to the team’s top leading scorers, the Bulldogs also received contributions from Nate Mallory, who finished with eight points points on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting night, and Lau Thompson, who added a team-high seven rebounds.
For Avonworth, Jordan Kolenda finished as the team’s leading scorer, dropping 18 in the second half to finish with 25. The freshman Carmichael followed with 19 points on 7-for-18 shooting, while forward Peyton Faulkner added five points. Avonworth shot 38% from the field and 30% from three-point range, while Shady Side hit 52% of its field goals. Shady Side also won the rebounding battle, dished out more assists than, and had more steals than Avonworth in the win.
With the win, Shady Side Academy takes home its first WPIAL title since the 1999 season, more than 20 years ago.
“It’s incredible,” Vadnais added. “It started last year, it didn’t end the way we wanted. These guys worked all offseason to prepare for this season and make a run at this and through ups and downs, these guys taking more of a leadership role positive every day, goto over some losses, but we played really good teams. We played Fox Chapel, we played OLSH, so there were going to be some bumps along the way, but it prepared us for this playoff run. The guys just played so hard. A number of different guys scored for us tonight, just a great group of guys that are unselfish. They wanted this after last year, the way it ended, they wanted an opportunity to play for this and they just seized the moment.”