Newtown Square – Since taking the reins as Episcopal Academy boys’ basketball head coach six years ago, Craig Conlin and his staff have coached EA squads that, every year, have featured tremendous senior leadership that tries to set the bar higher.
This year was no different, with senior co-captains Kyle Sacchetta and Matt Woods doing their part to lift their team to a 19-7 record; a second place finish in the Inter-Ac before leading their squad to the PAISAA tournament semi-finals.
“Kyle and Matt were tremendous leaders throughout the season,” Conlin said, following his teams hard-fought 56-42 loss to Westtown in the PAISAA semi-finals. “I thought they had great mentorship in coming up through the program with our former captains – guys like DC Gaitley, Taylor Wright, Colin Wright, Brian Metzler, Adam Strouss, Kevin Gayhardt, Chris McNeal, Connor Martin, Michael Hinckley and Michael Jolaoso – guys like that who trained them up to be leaders and not only think about themselves but think collectively about the whole group and they really put it together throughout this whole year and they were just phenomenal.”
EA junior guard Connor Delaney, who was named one of the co-captains for next year, added, “They (Matt and Kyle) taught me you don’t have to lead with words, that you can lead with actions; Kyle goes hard every day in practice, doesn’t have to say much and people do what he does and that’s completely the right thing. If you play hard and do the right thing and have the right mentality people will follow you so you don’t always have to say something, you can just play hard and do the right thing and people will follow.”
As they have done all season the Churchmen used the senior leadership of Sacchetta (five points) and Woods (11 points) to provide an offensive punch while Delaney helped control the tempo to go into the locker room tied at 22 against a talented Westtown squad in the PAISAA semi-final. Unfortunately, the length of the Moose proved to be too much in the final quarter, allowing Westtown to pull away for the win.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Conlin said. “I thought we played really, really hard throughout the game. I thought we played well in the first half but the difference in the second half was we obviously didn’t shoot as well, thought we gave up more offensive rebounds than we did in the first half and I thought we turned the ball over more in the second half than in the first half. The combination of those things plus the talent level they had makes it difficult.”
Although the season ended one game shy of a championship game appearance the seniors – Sacchetta and Woods – have followed in the footsteps of their predecessors including Hinckley, Jolaoso, Martin and McNeal that have continued to raise the bar of the program.
Sacchetta, who is headed to the University of Arizona in the fall, said, “Every year in the past every captain has set the bar and last year we had two great captains in Hinckley and Jolaoso who set the bar high for us and we just wanted to raise the bar again for Connor and Nick (Alikakos) to follow. It’s big for our program that we got a first round playoff win and got to the semi-finals.”
Woods, who finished with a team high 17 points, added, “The things I will remember about EA basketball are the captains that came before me (Connor Martin, Chris McNeal, Adam Strouss, Kevin Gayhardt). They set the bar so high and without realizing it trying to become like them and raise the bar higher. We have a big team aspect here at EA and I love playing with my brothers by my side. I am very grateful for my time at EA and for all friends I have met and will have for life. We will have two great leaders in Nick and Connor next year and hopefully they can raise the bar higher than Kyle and I did.”