Sewickley Academy squads, Quaker Valley boys advance to WPIAL postseason
For the Sewickley area basketball teams, the 2013-14 season was a success.
Three earned WPIAL playoff berths as the Quaker Valley boys squad and the Sewickley Academy boys and girls teams all clinched second in their sections.
Below is a look at what the teams accomplished during the season as they prepare for the WPIAL postseason.
Sewickley Academy girls
Some teams would be disappointed finishing second in the section standings and falling just short of a section title.
For the Panthers, second place is a major victory.
“I think it is more than a success,” first-year coach Christen Adels said. “I had a parent come up to me and tell me he remembers our first scrimmage and how bad it was and to be playing like this and have this kind of turnaround, it is a tribute to the girls. They bought into the system. They worked hard and did things (they were) never asked to do before.
“Their hard work paid off. I am proud of second.”
The Panthers finished with a 9-3 mark in Section 1-A play. Quigley Catholic won the section crown with a 12-0 mark, and Aliquippa (8-4) and Cornell (7-5) secured WPIAL playoff berths.
The team's 14-6 record is the best since the team went 17-7 in 2004-05. The winning record is the first since 2009-10.
“It is huge for us,” senior forward Katelyn Ripple said. “All the seniors are really excited. I am so excited to go to the playoffs with this team because we play so well together.”
Adels' transformation of a six-win team from a year ago has been one of the biggest turnarounds in the WPIAL this season. Sewickley Academy has shown to be one of the top defensive teams in the area thanks to a new scheme.
The Panthers' 1-3-1 defense has given opponents problems all season, and Sewickley Academy will enter the Class A playoffs giving up only 25.1 points per game — the lowest average in the WPIAL.
The team wrapped up second place in Section 1-A with a 41-26 win over Cornell last week.
The Raiders controlled the first half and built a lead as large as 11 points over the opening frames. The Panthers rebounded and went into halftime trailing 20-15. Sewickley Academy's ferocious defense was on display in the second half as the team held Cornell to only six points.
Sophomore Mackenzie Coles led the team in scoring with 12 points. The guard's ability to attack the basket proved to be vital against Cornell.
“We knew this game was big because if we won we would clinch second place,” Coles said. “We knew we had to pick it up in the second half. No one expected us to finish in second. That is awesome for us.”
Seeing other players step up as scorers was a welcome sight for Adels. The team has been without Kayla Guerin in recent games. The 5-foot-10 junior forward suffered a lower body injury, and the team's offense took a hit.
“We really picked up the offense,” Adels said. “That was key. We struggled with scoring in the games before this. It should give us confidence heading into the playoffs.”
The week leading up to the playoffs will be one of anticipation.
Adels said she will look to scrimmage another team while trying to mix up practices with her squad.
“We will have a couple of intersquad scrimmages to try and avoid the monotony of four or five practices,” Adels said.
No matter what they do in practice, the Panthers will be more than ready for the opening game of the postseason.
“We are confident,” Ripple said. “We love playing together. We are excited. I think we can go pretty far.”
Quaker Valley boys
The Quaker Valley boys basketball team has one of the most prolific offenses in the WPIAL.
The Quakers average 71.5 points — third in Class AA behind Neshannock's 72.5 and Greensburg Central Catholic's 71.9. But what makes the average even more impressive is only one player averages double figures.
Chris Conlan leads the team with 12.2 points per game. After that is a team that has a pack of players stepping up every night — Winter Fondi averages 9.4 and Qadir Taylor has been scoring 8.8. Christian Miller, Tyler Garbee, John Bernard, Jake Travato and Tre'won Marshall all average more than five points.
“That has been the strength of this team,” Quaker Valley coach Mike Mastroianni said. “Our scoring has been so balanced that it is hard to game plan and pick out a couple guys to focus on.”
The Quakers wrapped up their Section 6-AA schedule with a 76-32 win over Freedom last week. The outcome was never in question as Quaker Valley scored 35 points in the first quarter.
The win pushed Quaker Valley's section make to 10-2 and overall record to 19-2. The only blemishes are a pair of losses to Section 6-AA champion Avonworth. The Quakers fell to the Antelopes 56-54 on Jan. 3 and 57-48 on Jan. 29.
“Those games will help us in the future,” Mastroianni said. “Both of those games we played OK, but we weren't consistent on the defensive end. The players will have a better understanding of what it takes it big games.”
While the team's offense has been impressive, the defense has been as strong. Giving up only 43.6 points per game — behind only West Shamokin's 43.5 in Class AA — the team has recorded 16.5 steals per game. Mastroianni said the balance on both ends of the court will prove valuable in the postseason.
“You need to have balance and be able to play both ways to have success,” Mastroianni said. “Whether it is a high-scoring game or a defensive battle, you never know what your matchup might be. To have a chance you need flexibility.”
The WPIAL playoffs will kick off this weekend, and the boys Class AA bracket will be one of the most interesting. Several teams have a chance of reaching Palumbo Center, according to Mastroianni.
“There are a number of strong teams in Double A,” Mastroianni said. “I am not sure if someone is the clear-cut team out front of everyone else. It is pretty exciting because probably the top eight teams or so have a chance.”
Sewickley Academy boys
The Panthers will need to find their mojo after a two-game skid in the final week of the regular season.
Sewickley Academy opened the week with a 71-63 loss to Vincentian Academy. The Royals led 32-27 at halftime but took full control after outscoring the home squad 20-16 in the third frame.
The Panthers' big men found success inside as Luke Vith led the team with 16 points, and Drew Johnson added 14. Anthony Muscato finished with 14. The defense found more success than in the first game of the series, a 115-88 loss.
Three days later the Panthers fell to Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, 48-35, on the road. The Trojans led 25-22 at halftime, but an 11-2 third quarter sealed the win. Johnson and Steven Munn each finished with seven points in Sewickley Academy's lowest-scoring game of the season. It was the first time all season the Panthers dropped back-to-back games.
Sewickley Academy (7-3 in Section 2-A) finished tied for second in the section with North Catholic. Vincetian Academy captured the crown with a 10-0 record. Eden Christian earned the fourth berth with a 4-6 record.
The WPIAL playoff brackets were announced Tuesday and were unavailable at press time.