Quaker Valley wears down Kittanning in regular-season finale
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Kittanning had no shortage of tough tests leading up to its third straight playoff appearance.
The Wildcats took an early lead before the speed and depth of Class AA No. 3 Quaker Valley took its toll and sent the Quakers to an 86-54 nonsection win Monday night in Kittanning.
Chris Conlan had game highs of 28 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Quakers (20-2), who had four players score in double figures.
Noah Kunst scored 19 to lead Kittanning (7-15), and Corey Oresick added 12. Eric Hulings also blocked seven shots for the Wildcats.
“If you look at the last three teams we've played, they like to get up and down the floor, and that's what we're headed toward (in the playoffs) Friday or Saturday,” Kittanning coach Bill Henry said.
“Quaker Valley has two losses this year, both to Avonworth. Coach (Mike) Mastroianni has a great program there, and they have five kids that can shoot, five kids that can dribble and five kids that can rebound on the court. That creates problems for us with matchups.”
Kittanning did a good job controlling the pace in the early stages, and it finished the first quarter with a 14-11 lead.
Oresick had seven of his points in the first quarter, and the Wildcats exploited the size advantage held by their post players.
Quaker Valley struggled out of the gate, and it took almost until halftime before the Quakers began to move up and down the floor at their accustomed pace.
“(Kittanning) was a perfect team for us to game-plan against getting ready for playoffs,” Mastroianni said. “They have an outstanding scorer (Kunst) that can create his own shot, and their other players are big and pose problems with their size. This was a great game for us to scout, get on the bus for a long trip and get ready for the playoffs.”
Kittanning held on to its lead until Conlan scored on an offensive rebound to make it 20-19 with 4:45 left in the second quarter. That go-ahead hoop was part of a 12-2 run, after which the Wildcats would not retake the lead.
Though Kittanning only trailed 33-25 at halftime, the toll taken by Quaker Valley's deep bench was starting to show. Turnovers became a problem in the third quarter for the Wildcats, who were outscored 21-10 in the period.
“We count on our starters to play a lot of minutes, and they have 15 players that can come in and contribute,” Henry said. “That presents problems for us because we do fatigue, and when you get a little bit tired, you start making little mental mistakes. You try to use your timeouts to help, but that's just a good team we played.”
The Quakers also moved the ball well in transition. Christian Miller finished with 13 points, John Bernard had 11, and Qadir Taylor scored 10 for Quaker Valley.
“Most of this season, we've had really good starts,” Mastroianni said. “But we always talk about, because we play 10 guys, there's going to be a two- or three-minute spurt where we go on a run. This was a game we tried not to panic in.”
Both teams turn their attention to the WPIAL playoffs and the pairings, which will be released Tuesday night.
Kittanning, as a fourth-place team from its section, likely will be placed in a preliminary-round game in the Class AAA bracket, which would mean it will play later this week.
“We're going to take (Tuesday) off to regroup because we have had quite a few games in the last week. We'll find out who we have Tuesday night, and Wednesday we'll start to prepare,” Henry said.
“There are some pretty good teams out there, but we also feel very fortunate to be in the playoffs for the third straight year.
“There's a lot of teams that would like to be where we are.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.
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