Quaker Valley boys advance in PIAA tournament for 3rd straight year
One basket — that is all it took for the Quaker Valley boys basketball team to walk out of Central Cambria with a PIAA tournament win in overtime.
Winter Fondi scored on a driving layup with two seconds left on the clock to score the only points in the extra frame and give the Quakers a 42-40 win over Richland in the PIAA Class AA first round Saturday.
“It was a defensive struggle the entire game,” said Fondi, who led Quaker Valley with 17 points. “We figured if we held them to under 45 point we would win the game.”
There were only three possessions in the overtime period. The Quakers missed their initial shot after draining more than 1:30 off the clock. The Rams turned the ball over on their sole possession and Quaker Valley then held the ball until Fondi's final shot.
While three possessions might seem unexpected in overtime for such a highly contested game, the Quaker Valley coaching staff was OK with holding the ball. Two of the Quakers' top players — Chris Conlan and Jake Trovato — were playing with four fouls and several other players playing had two or three.
“It's probably not what you usually do in a state playoff game when your season and our seniors' careers are on the line, but if I had to do it again, I would probably do the same thing,” Quaker Valley coach Mike Mastroianni said. “We were going to hold it for the last shot.”
The teams traded the lead or tied 11 times in the first half but 3-pointers from Clay Noyes and John Bernard gave Quaker Valley a 24-20 lead at halftime.
The Quakers built their lead to as high as five in the third quarter before an 8-2 run by the Rams gave them a 36-35 lead with 3:10 to play.
“You have to be concerned when that happens, but that is how the game was all night,” Fondi said. “It was back and forth, back and forth. We had to just stick together and play as a team.”
A Fondi putback and a Conlan foul shot in the final 69 seconds gave Quaker Valley a 40-38 lead before Richland's Matt Shaffer scored a basket with 3.2 seconds left to send the game into overtime.
Noyes finished with eight points for the Quakers. Shaffer led the Rams with 17 points.
It was a return to form for the Quakers. After a 60-39 loss to Greensburg Central Catholic in the WPIAL quarterfinals, the Quakers were left wondering if they would step on the court again this season.
But when the Centurions reached the WPIAL Class AA championship game, their ticket was punched. Quaker Valley then got back to work in preparation for the PIAA tournament.
“It is a great feeling to get another chance,” Fondi said. “We were down on ourselves after the loss. We wanted to go further in WPIALs. But we pulled together after that and got back to work. We are ready to go as far as we can.”
Making a third straight trip to the PIAA tournament doesn't come as a surprise to Mastroianni. The Quakers have relied on the leadership of their seven seniors this season, and their drive has helped push the team into its first PIAA second round game since 2012.
“We have seven seniors in the program and that is why we are still playing this late into March,” Mastroianni said. “They have provided such great leadership. They want the season to continue.”
Quaker Valley played Aliquippa in the PIAA second round of Wednesday. Results were unavailable prior to this edition's deadline.