Washington clamps down on Quaker Valley
Troy Wilson would like a little more respect for his Washington teammates, a group that rarely gets mentioned among the elite teams in Class AA.
"We're always the underdog," he said.
That could change.
Wilson scored 18 points and teammate Nick Bryant had 20 to lead Washington into the quarterfinals of the PIAA playoffs with Wednesday's 60-38 victory over Quaker Valley in the first game of a tripleheader at Palumbo Center. Several of those "elite" teams — Aliquippa, Beaver Falls and Jeannette — played later last night.
"Nobody's been worried about us the whole year," said Wilson, who doesn't expect things to change when Washington plays Beaver Falls or Jeannette on Saturday, yet another game where Washington players expect to be the underdogs. Aliquippa and WPIAL champion North Catholic are also standing in the way of reaching Hershey.
"There are so many good AA teams this year that a lot of these teams just get lost under the radar," said Quaker Valley coach Mike Mastroianni. "Washington was one of them."
Guard Casey Courneen led Quaker Valley with 12 points, and Nigel Gibson added nine.
Washington (24-3) stuck to coach Ron Faust's defense-first mentality, holding Quaker Valley to a season-low 38 points. It helped that Quaker Valley (18-7) played without senior Kortezz Martin, an elusive guard who was the Quakers' leading scorer.
Martin was held out of the team's first-round victory after missing practice. In response, the coach said, Martin chose to leave the team. Without him, Quaker Valley struggled in transition, never led and was outrebounded, 25-8, through the first three quarters.
"This time of year you need continuity," Mastroianni said. "At times today we got bogged down, something that hadn't happened all year. It's not just losing one guy; we had several guys now playing different spots."
Washington took advantage before the first quarter ended. Bryant, a 6-foot guard, scored eight points in the period's final 2 minutes to take an 18-8 lead. Quaker Valley's turnovers and missed shots became Washington points.
"Defense carries our offense," Bryant said.
That's a message Faust has stressed even stronger during this, his final season at Washington. This is a group that can't expect to score 80 points. So, instead, they have allowed on average 38 points per game.
Quaker Valley's highest-scoring quarter was 12 points in the second.
"They understand that you can still win games by playing defense," Faust said. "... We need to stay in striking range, and we do that on the defensive end."
Against Quaker Valley, Washington's lead surpassed 20 points in the fourth quarter when Bryant made two free throws with 2:06 left.
Bryant said he isn't sure why his team has been overlooked. Washington had only two regular-season losses (including a six-point loss to WPIAL Class AAAA champion Peters Township) before losing to South Fayette in the WPIAL quarterfinals.
"Strength of schedule?" Bryant said. "Our conference• What we did in past years• This year we're a different team."