Episcopal Academy falls back on training to achieve hot start

With his team trailing 53-40 midway through its contest Tuesday against visiting Phelps School, Episcopal Academy boys basketball coach Craig Conlin called time-out.

Approaching the huddle, Conlin saw a calm, composed team with his seniors speaking words of encouragement that the game was far from over.  From that point, the Churchman began their rally that was punctuated by senior co-captain Kyle Sacchetta who drilled a three-pointer with 14.5 seconds remaining to give the hosts a 65-64 lead.

Following a Phelps time-out, the Lions got off a shot that was rebounded by junior Nick Alikakos, who dribbled out the clock to secure the come from behind win.

“We practice that play all the time,” said Sacchetta, referring to the eventual game-winning shot. “We call it our flood play where we are taught to go baseline and shoot.”

Senior co-captain Matt Woods added, “Nick got the offensive board and found me in the corner. I drove baseline into the lane and I jumped up. When I saw I did not have a shot, I kicked it baseline and knew Kyle would knock the shot down.”

“It was very rewarding as a coach to witness my guys having confidence down the stretch and to fall back on their training,” Conlin said. “I looked into their eyes and I did not see panic.  I saw our guys moving with patience, confidence and cooperation.”

Tuesday’s result is the latest example of the team mentality that Conlin has fostered for his squad that is off to a 6-1 start that has included wins over Friends’ Central, Shipley School and Quakertown, who they played in the season opening tournament at Radnor High School.

Fueling the success has been the team first philosophy created by the coaching staff that the senior class each year has passed down to the underclassmen to help EA establish a winning tradition.

This year is Sacchetta and Woods’ turn to pay it forward to help the Churchmen get off to a fast start as they prepare for the upcoming Inter-Ac schedule.

“The seniors have been a big part of my development,” said Alikakos, who finished with 33 points and 21 rebounds against Phelps. “When I get frustrated they help me stay calm and find a way to get the job done.”

Conlin added, “Kyle Sacchetta and Matt Woods have been outstanding as senior captains.  We have had tremendous captains before them who have set the standard of leadership extremely high and Kyle and Matt are leading our guys up to that standard.  So far, they have been excellent and our coaching staff couldn’t be more proud of them.”

To date it has been a true team effort with everyone following the team philosophy of making sure you stay within your role. To accompany Woods’ and Sacchetta in the backcourt has been junior Connor Delaney and Jack O’Connell while Jermaine Rhoden has done an admirable job on the boards.

To many who only see the box score, it may appear Alikakos’ only contribution comes in the scoring and rebounding column. What they don’t see may be his most important attribute, which is his passing ability.

“Nick does everything for us from scoring to rebounding to passing,” said Sacchetta. “He is utility guy who is important in our success.”

“He is a big part of the team and I am excited to continue to watch him develop,” added Woods.

Conlin added, “Our staff agrees that Nick Alikakos’ greatest skill on the court is his passing ability.  He always seems to make the right decision and find the open man.  Many people outside of our program only see his points and rebounds but Nick has worked extremely hard on his overall game.”

With the challenging Inter-Ac schedule on the horizon the fast start has given everyone reason to be excited.



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