Chartiers Valley holds on to advance to WPIAL semifinals
Chartiers Valley girls basketball coach Spencer Stefko couldn't say for sure why his squad saw its first two opponents make dramatic comebacks in the opening rounds of the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs, but he has one theory.
“I have to watch the film but I think my kids shave points,” Stefko said jokingly. “I'm not really sure, but I think there is a chance.”
The Colts defeated Shaler, 31-29, and Upper St. Clair, 55-52, to move on to the WPIAL semifinals for the fourth time during Stefko's seven seasons coaching the team.
Chartiers Valley slipped past Shaler, 31-29, in the opening round. The Colts led, 24-12, going into the final quarter, but the Titans pulled within two with a minute left. Senior guard Mariah Wells connected on two free throws to seal the win for Chartiers Valley.
After an 11-11 first quarter, Upper St. Clair jumped ahead by six in the quarterfinal showdown's second quarter, but a 6-0 Chartiers Valley run tied the score at 21.
“With young teams, you need to start burning timeouts when they go down in a game like this,” Stefko said. “But having this experienced group is different. These kids never question what we are doing. They just keep on running. It says a lot about the character of these kids.”
The teams entered halftime at with a 24-24 tie. The Lady Colts were spurred by Wells in the first half as she recorded 14 of her team's points.
“It felt great to keep us in the game,” Wells said. “But that is how this team is. I have my teammates' backs, and I know they have mine.”
The Lady Colts started the third period on a 14-4 run to take the lead. Chartiers Valley went up by as many as 12 points before an Elayna Kaylor 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter started the Panthers' comeback.
Upper St. Clair continued pulling closer until a Jordan Serio 3-pointer with three seconds to go pulled the Panthers within two. One last shot from half court was wide, and the Lady Colts held on.
“The end of the game was intense,” Wells said. “But we have been through it before. We practice hard, so we are ready for anything we see on the court.”
Wells led Chartiers Valley with 16 points. Alexa Golden added 12 — all in the second half — and Kassidy O'Keefe finished with 11.
Chartiers Valley had defeated Upper St. Clair twice previously this season — 67-31 on Dec. 17 and 59-45 on Jan. 21 — and Stefko said the team knew what to expect.
“We knew we would not see the same thing as we did the first two times,” Stefko said. “They were better on both ends of the floor. They made some deep 3-pointers that were contested. It is what you expect from a team with that kind of tradition that is well coached and is very talented.”
Chartiers Valley faced Mt. Lebanon in the semifinals Tuesday. Results were unavailable at press time. Their appearance in the WPIAL final four qualifies the Lady Colts for the PIAA tournament.
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-388-5813.