Chartiers Valley's returning starters enjoying jump to Class AAAA
Chartiers Valley girls basketball coach Spencer Stefko postulates his team is a gregarious and a tight enough crew that even if it was losing, it'd be having fun doing it.
That's mere conjecture, though. These Colts don't lose too often.
Off to a 4-0 start and ranked No. 2 in WPIAL Class AAAA after moving into the classification this season, the Colts enjoy each other as much as they enjoy winning.
“I've got the kind of group of kids that you love them so much, you'd rather go to battle and lose with them than win with some other group of kids,” Stefko said. “That's rare you get that in coaching, that you just really enjoy the kids every day, and you don't have days where you're ticked off at them and you don't want to be around them. It's fun.
“We may lose games, but I don't think there's going to be games where the other teams have more fun than we do.”
Stefko likes to boast that he has six starters back from a team that went 20-2 in the regular season and advanced to the WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA semifinals. That's because a combination of injury, illness and Stefko's prerogative in making a lineup allowed six players to start an abundance of games during Chartiers Valley's campaign last winter.
“We're pretty blessed with six kids who we can interchange seamlessly,” Stefko said. “And then three other kids who weren't in the rotation last year who have come along and provide us a spark off the bench, so we're lucky there, too.”
Chief among the Colts' experienced lineup is the dynamic duo of seniors Mariah Wells and Kassidy O'Keefe. They combined for more than 20 points per game last season, and each was an all-section selection.
Wells, a 5-foot-9 guard/forward, will play at Seton Hill, and O'Keefe is being recruited by Division III schools.
“What you notice about them most is how tough and nasty they are on the floor,” Stefko said. “They're both really skilled players and both real good college players who are still at the high school level. Sometimes you just feel them imposing their will on other people.”
Stefko also places sophomore Alexa Golden in that category. Golden, a 5-8 guard/forward, is “a big-time player nobody knew about yet with three seniors and two juniors around (as teammates),” Stefko said. “But she's a player (college coaches) are all about.”
Juniors Jenna Devinney and Kristin McGeough and senior Kristina Coyne are the Colts' other returning starters. At 6-3, McGeough is a presence at forward. The other players in the rotation have versatility to play at different spots on the floor.
Sophomores Karley O'Keefe, Melissa Rickens and Alyssa Mazzarini are options off the bench.
No matter what combination of players that's on the floor, one thing's for sure: They probably are enjoying playing — and playing together.
“We're just one big family,” Wells said. “With some of these guys, I've been with them since sixth grade, and some I played AAU with. And the new ones, they've just come in and fit in with the rest of us. This team, they're a load of fun to be around.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.