Quaker Valley boys continue to surprise, qualify for PIAA tournament
Quaker Valley boys basketball coach Mike Mastroianni knew his team had potential when the 2012-13 season started.
But did he think his team would be in the WPIAL semifinals?
“I would be foolish to say I knew we were a final four team,” Mastroianni said. “But I am not surprised of the success. I don't think teams know a lot about us because we graduated seven seniors from a team that made the state semifinals last year. Everyone thinks that team is gone and we are not as good.”
Any doubts of the Quakers' talent were silenced last week when they defeated Riverside, 53-48, and Seton-La Salle, 62-61, to advance to the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
The Quakers defeated the Panthers in the first round after making a late rally. Riverside was ahead most of the game before a Qadir Taylor basket and free throw put Quaker Valley ahead for good with 23 seconds left.
Quaker Valley needed another rally in the quarterfinals against Seton-La Salle. A 3-pointer by Eric Marasco put the Rebels ahead in the first quarter and they led most of the first half, building an eight-point lead.
“We have been in that situation several times this season,” senior Burke Moser said. “Sometimes we are just figuring out the game. Even though we were down 24-16 at one point, no one was worried. Everyone knew it would be all right.”
Quaker Valley went on a 14-4 run to end the first half. On their final possession before intermission, senior Nelson Westwood connected on a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Quakers a 30-28 halftime lead — Quaker Valley's first of the game.
“We knew coming out of halftime we could control the game,” Westwood said. “We knew we could control the tempo and make Seton-La Salle play our game. It was a big momentum shift.”
The Quakers came out of halftime and started to slow the game down drastically. Quaker Valley extended its possession time and built the lead to six points. The Rebels were held scoreless for nearly five minutes but a late rally brought Seton-La Salle back as a Ryan Norkus 3-pointer tied the game at 39.
The teams traded the lead or tied six times in the fourth quarter. With only 13 seconds to go and a one-point lead, Westwood missed a pair of free throws. The Rebels pushed the ball down the floor, but the Quakers defense squashed any chance of a basket to secure the win.
“You could see the panic in their eyes,” Moser said. “When we were holding it out, they started doubling. They were worried. This was their year. Sorry we had to spoil the party.”
Westwood led the Quakers with 20 points. Moser added 15, and Taylor finished with 11.
Winning hasn't been a sure thing for Quaker Valley this season. A large 2012 graduating class led to several players from last season's junior varsity team — including Taylor, sophomore Chris Conlan and junior Jake Trovato — being thrust into key roles.
In addition to the new faces, the team had to deal with several injuries — Westwood came into the season nursing a soccer injury and a concussion and Trovato missed a majority of the season with a shoulder injury.
The team started 5-3, including an 0-2 mark in Section 6-AA. The team is 15-1 since the turn of the new year.
“Our continuity was really bad at the beginning of the year,” Westwood said. “We didn't know where each other was on the court. But as the season moved along we got in the flow and we now know how each other plays.”
The Quakers faced Burrell in the semifinals on Wednesday. Results were unavailable prior to this edition's deadline. No matter the outcome, the Quakers have locked up a spot in the PIAA tournament.
“Our season goes a few weeks longer,” Moser said. “We expected to do well. We knew if we did what we had to we would be right here.”
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.