Quigley girls chasing title dreams

| Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

A team with aspirations of claiming titles understands it takes hard work to achieve goals.

Last year, the Quigley girls basketball team finally got over the hump by advancing past the first round of the WPIAL Class A playoffs and qualified for the semifinals where it fell to eventual PIAA runner-up Vincentian Academy.

With the playoff experience in tow, Quigley (14-5, 10-0) is primed to progress further in WPIAL playoffs, hoping to reach the championship for a possible rematch against Vincentian.

“I think we were really nervous and scared last year. We were thinking to ourselves that Vincentian is that big team to beat this year,” senior guard/forward Kristin Jackson said. “This year, we know their game and we aren't afraid to go after them and we are more confident. If we go against Vincentian, we will be more ready for them.”

But before Quigley, which has a 36-game section win streak, can ever think about a possible rematch against Vincentian, the Spartans must make sure to take care of business for the remainder of the regular season and progress through the playoffs.

One thing the Spartans are working on as the playoffs approach is their intensity and not underestimating their opponent.

“If we could change one thing, it would be our slow starts against teams that we know we can beat,” coach Bill DelTondo said. “We get back into the game when we have to do something. It gets a little scary on the sidelines as a coach, when you're down or even tied with a team that you know you should beat. We just need to end up playing a little harder at the beginning.”

DelTondo instills team concepts to his players as they don't have one superstar player to run their offense through. He also focuses on playing strong team defense.

“We just try to collectively do it as a team. We don't run plays for one person through our offense. We run it through all our players on the court,” DelTondo said.

“We like our defense to hold these teams down on the scoring side. We aren't the best scoring team. We hold the opponent to around 55 points per game, so we like playing tough defense and not a high scoring game. That is more in our comfort zone.”

Offensively, the Spartans are led by Jackson, who recently went over 1,000 career points after scoring 28 in a win over Freedom on Feb. 1 and averages 16.3 ppg. Junior guard Kaitlyn Smith complements Jackson with a 15.6 ppg average.

Junior forward Liz Duer is strong in the paint and on the glass. DelTondo relies on senior guard Brittany Jackson, Kristin's sister, to pressure the ball-handler on the defensive end.

However, the Spartans are trying to fill in the void left by sophomore guard Gabrielle Smith, who dislocated her right elbow and sustained ligament damage in late December. DelTondo expects her to return in time for the playoffs but, in her absence, a trio of girls have stepped in.

“I think we have become more closer as a team. In the past years, we had conflict on the team, but this year we are pushing each other to do better,” Kristin Jackson said. “We definitely have more experience and we've gotten past the first round in the playoffs now. We aren't as scared, apprehensive and not afraid to going further in the playoffs.”

Andrew John is a freelance writer.

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