Coach's return fortuitous for Chartiers Valley girls basketball team
The Chartiers Valley girls basketball team more or less began the 2011-12 season last May, when Colts coach Spencer Stefko was abruptly fired, only to be rehired a month later.
Throughout the obscure, gone-and-here-again process, Chartiers Valley's players attended a school board meeting sporting black T-shirts with "Team Stefko" on the back and professed support for their coach, who has led them to a 108-41 record and four section titles since he was hired in 2006.
"Ever since our coach got fired, we wanted to show everybody that him getting fired really didn't have anything to do with anything," junior Mariah Wells said. "He's a great role model, and him getting ripped away from us really made us (upset). We all love him, and we didn't want to see him go."
Buoyed by the return of a coach who never really left, the Class AAA No. 3 Colts have won 18 of their 20 games and locked up the Section 5 title with Monday's 63-22 drubbing of McGuffey.
The nine-member Chartiers Valley school board voted unanimously to remove Stefko from his post May 10 but declined to elaborate, citing its policy to not comment on personnel decisions.
While the entire situation was shrouded in mystery — Stefko insists he still hasn't been told exactly why he was instructed to cancel all scheduled open gyms and have his belongings packed by the end of the school day — the fact that his players and their parents went to bat for him provided Stefko with some much-appreciated assurance.
"The coaching position was open, and they asked for the coach they wanted," Stefko said. "I told them at the beginning of the year, 'You asked for this. And as far as I'm concerned, that's a green light to push you as much as you need to be pushed.'
"They've really responded to that."
According to Stefko, his team has been chameleonic — able to win close games, blowouts, defensive games and shootouts, all with equal aplomb.
Chartiers Valley has scored between 41 and 50 points six times, 51 to 60 points eight times, and 61 or more six times. Moreover, the Colts' average margin of victory has been between one and 10 points six times, 11-20 points three times, 21-30 points six times and 31 or more three times.
"We can win a lot of different ways," sophomore guard Kassidy O'Keefe said.
Chartiers Valley, which relies almost exclusively on underclassmen, doesn't have anyone who's off the charts statistically — just the way Stefko wants it. Wells leads the way with 11.5 points per game, and sophomore Jenna Devinney isn't far behind at 11.3.
Six-foot-3 sophomore Kristin McGeough is pulling down a team-best 11.9 rebounds, and senior guard Kristen Castello is tops with 3.8 assists. But the biggest number has been the win total, something that has increased steadily since Stefko arrived.
"He's a big part of our team," said O'Keefe, who's averaging 10.1 points and 4.4 rebounds. "He helps support us, so we felt it was our job to support him and try to help get him back. We went to the meetings and fought for his job because we knew we needed him this year, and that brought us all together."