Quaker Valley boys off to good start with pair of wins at host tourney
With four new starters, the Quaker Valley boys basketball team dealt with plenty of early-season butterflies in its opening two games at the Quaker Valley Classic last weekend.
The Quakers struggled with their 3-point and free-throw shooting in both contests. That held particularly in their opener against Cornell on Friday, when Quaker Valley shot 3 of 18 from 3-point range and 8 of 29 from the foul line.
Even with those shooting issues— coupled with an early double-digit deficit in their second game, against Burrell on Saturday — the Quakers had a good weekend. They beat Cornell, 54-47, and Burrell, 53-39, to open the season on a positive note.
“I was pleased that we found ways to win,” Quaker Valley coach Mike Mastroianni said. “Our defense was pretty consistent on both nights, for how young we are. We didn't really shoot the ball very well (and) we didn't shoot foul shots very well. But in saying all that, we found enough — we found a will, we found a fight, which as a coach, you sort of look at those things more because in the big picture they're more important.”
Senior Burke Moser, the Quakers' only returning starter, led the team offensively by scoring 18 points against Cornell and 14 against Burrell. Fellow senior Nelson Westwood battled through injuries but was integral to both victories, Mastroianni said.
But a combination of other players also contributed. Senior Jack McGarry joined Moser in double figures with 11 points against Cornell, and guards Qadir Taylor (16 points) and Chris Conlan (11) made big plays down the stretch against Burrell.
Quaker Valley actually trailed Burrell at halftime after falling behind by double digits in the first half. But a strong second-half effort allowed the Quakers (2-0) to outscore the Bucs, 31-13, in the second half en route to the victory.
“Burrell is a very, very good team,” Mastroianni said. “I would be very surprised if they did not win their section.”
Quaker Valley played another nonsection game Tuesday at Fort Cherry, in a game that was played past the deadline for this week's edition. The Quakers will open section play Friday night with a game at Carlynton.
“I think our play will take awhile to get consistent, but I think our expectation level and how hard we play is within our team,” Mastroianni said. “I think we learned a lot through the tournament.”
Sewickley Academy coach Win Palmer predicted a “loaded” field at the Ambridge Tip-off Tournament, and he got exactly what he expected — and then some.
“It was a great experience for us,” Palmer said. “Montour is going to be very difficult to beat this year for people. I was very impressed with them. Ambridge and Knoch will both compete for their section championships. I thought the field was perhaps even stronger than I thought it was going in.”
The Panthers dropped both games they played at the tournament, falling 45-38 to Ambridge on Friday and 56-42 to Knoch on Saturday.
But Palmer, who said he pays little attention to wins and losses in the opening month of the season, was pleased with what he saw from his team — particularly in its balance. Eight players scored in Friday night's game, and the team's bench provided a lift in Saturday's game.
“I thought the second night our bench really contributed,” Palmer said. “We had some fatigue factors going on, and we played some guys much more minutes than we anticipated and really learned that we've got some guys that can help us off the bench.
“Last year, quite frankly, we didn't go very deep, (and) that hurt us as the season progressed. I thought we learned that we've got guys who can help us. I really feel like we're nine or 10 deep that can play games on a regular basis.”
Palmer said he believes Ambridge is one of the most athletic teams Sewickley Academy will face this season, and Knoch one of the most physical. Both teams play in WPIAL Class AAA, two classifications above the Panthers.
Sewickley Academy will host Rochester at 7:30 p.m. Friday, then follow that with a game at Serra Catholic at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
“I'm looking forward to just competing (and) learning about our guys,” Palmer said. “I saw our guards this past weekend looking to score, I saw our bigs looking to score — really balanced scoring. I'm anxious to see us continue that pattern of having multiple guys be factors and yet also work with each other to be scorers. We're not there yet … but I think that evolution is natural when you're learning to be a balanced scoring team.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.