Quaker Valley, Sewickley basketball teams set for season-opening tournaments
Quaker Valley boys basketball coach Mike Mastroianni usually prefers to open the season on the road to give his players a feel of what road games are truly like.
This year, though, the Quakers will enjoy the comforts of home.
The team will host the QV Boys Basketball Classic on Friday and Saturday evenings at Quaker Valley High School.
“I look at tip-offs as trying to get you ready to play section games because that's what starts next week,” Mastroianni said. “We tried to set them up as much (as possible) to get into routine as we would in our section games.”
The games Friday and Saturday aren't set up in tournament fashion; rather than Friday's winners and losers playing each other Saturday, both days' games are already scheduled. Quaker Valley will play Cornell at 5:45 p.m. Friday and Burrell at 5 p.m. Saturday.
The other team in the field is Central Valley, which will play Burrell on Friday and Cornell on Saturday in the late games.
“This past month we've been really hungry to play a team,” senior Burke Moser said. “I think it's also cool that Cornell's our opener — I played football with all those guys. I think it'll be a fun game, and they're also a really good team.”
Three of the four teams in the field made the playoffs last season, with the exception of Burrell.
“We feel it's a really strong field,” Mastroianni said. “It'll be two really good days of basketball.”
The Quaker Valley girls basketball team, meanwhile, will head to the Fort Cherry Tip-Off Tournament for games Friday and Saturday. The Quakers will open up with a game against Ringgold at 6 p.m. Friday and will play either Fort Cherry or McGuffey on Saturday.
Quaker Valley coach Jim Dudas said it would be difficult to get much insight on the three other teams because they changed a lot from last year. The Quakers lost to both Ringgold and McGuffey at last year's tournament, with Fort Cherry winning the title.
“I have the tapes of the games that we watched last year, and I'll be watching those this week,” Dudas said. “(We'll) see if we can pick off some things off those tapes that we might want to be paying attention to in terms of how we approach Ringgold. Then we'll be able to see McGuffey and Fort Cherry on Friday night.”
Dudas said he'd pay close attention to his defense this weekend because offense usually lags behind.
“Our issue is that we've got some kids playing positions this year that they didn't last year,” he said. “And then (we'll watch) our chemistry offensively — how's it coming along?”
Sewickley Academy boys coach Win Palmer likes putting a tougher schedule together in order to get his team ready for games at the end of the season.
The Panthers won't have an easy road this weekend, as they travel to the Ambridge Tip-off Tournament where they will play Ambridge on Friday and either Montour or Knoch on Saturday.
“It's a loaded field,” Palmer said. “You've got, I think, three teams that will be playoff teams in (Class) AAA, and then us. But we're firm believers that you get better playing a very challenging nonsection schedule. We've done this for years, and I think the success of our program speaks to the fact that it prepares our team because ultimately our goal is to compete for championships.”
Ambridge finished 4-16 last season, but the Bridgers won the tournament last year and feature senior forward Malik Walker, who averaged 15.3 points per game last season. Knoch and Montour both made the WPIAL playoffs last season, with Montour advancing all the way to the PIAA championship game.
Sewickley Academy, which lost in the first round of the PIAA playoffs last season, will look to a balanced attack to replace leading scorer Carrington Motley (17.1 ppg). And the Panthers will rely as usual on their defense.
“We're not playing a slow-down style of basketball,” Palmer said. “We're playing a very disciplined style, and that's why I'm excited about this group of players. It's a very smart team, and they know how to play.”
The Sewickley Academy girls team will play in the Shady Side Academy tournament, opening with a game Friday against Shady Side Academy. Saturday, the Panthers will play either Burrell or Leechburg.
Coach Allen Vaccarelli's team must replace seven seniors from a season ago, when the Panthers finished 9-12.
“They basically accounted for the majority of our statistics — points, rebounds, steals,” Vaccarelli said. “We are a very young team. Very athletic, but we're young.”
Many of the players also were members of the Sewickley Academy girls soccer team, which advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals. That complicated things further for Vaccarelli, as it cut into the team's practice time.
Shady Side Academy and Burrell both advanced to the WPIAL playoffs last season, with Shady Side losing in the preliminary round and Burrell falling in the first round. Burrell won the Shady Side Academy tournament last season, as Sewickley lost to Shady Side but beat Leechburg.
Vaccarelli said he wasn't worried as much about the opponents as he was his team. Because of the extended soccer season, the team only had six practices as a unit heading into this week.
“We're trying to find combinations within our lineup — different players that play well with other players,” he said. “But most importantly, we're looking that the team gives a full effort and regardless of the situation that we play all 32 minutes.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.