After moving up in classification this season, the Chartiers Valley girls basketball team is adjusting to life in Class AAAA, at least in the first half.
Through their first three section contests, the Colts have trailed either at the end of the first quarter or at halftime, but the endings have remained the same.
Just like last season when Chartiers Valley went 10-0 in Section 5-AAA, all the games have ended in favor of the Colts.
Chartiers Valley is 6-2 overall and 3-0 in Section 4-AAAA.
The Colts wasted no time getting introduced to their new section rivals. After a 71-43 non-section win at Pine-Richland to start the season, the team played three section games in the span of seven days.
They rallied from first-half deficits in all three games to win at Canon-McMillan, 51-44, at Baldwin, 52-21, and at home against Upper St. Clair, 67-31.
"It honestly hasn't been much of a difference," Chartiers Valley coach Spencer Stefko said of the jump to Class AAAA. "Every game is a challenge that is going to make you better. The big difference is that in Triple-A you have that gap that separates the top teams from the bottom teams. That doesn't exist in Quad-A, at least not in the South Hills."
Playing three section contests in December before playing in a Christmas tournament is unusual but the Colts welcomed the challenge. Three games in seven days presented unique challenges to the team and forced Stefko to go deeper to his bench.
The early section wins certainly helped the team build confidence but Stefko knows his team's biggest section challenges are ahead with two meetings each against Bethel Park (7-1, 3-0) and Mt. Lebanon (5-1, 2-0) still to be played.
The ability of Chartiers Valley to rally against its new section foes has been the most significant aspect of its early season play.
"We have been able to wear teams down," Stefko said. "I am sure the second time through it will be a lot more difficult."
Section success is nothing new to Stefko's bunch. They captured section titles four of the past five seasons while winning 48 of 54 section games. In the postseason Chartiers Valley has reached the WPIAL semifinals three out of the past five seasons and the PIAA semifinals two out of the past three years.
This senior-laden group appears to have the fire power for similar regular-season and postseason success.
It returns all five starters including senior guards Mariah Wells and Kassidy O'Keefe. Wells averaged 11.7 points per game last season while O'Keefe added 9.5 points per game. Sophomore guard Alexa Golden, junior guard Jenna Devinney and senior forward Kristina Coyne also start. Coyne is a three-year starter and rotates time with junior forward Kristin McGeough who is the top returning reserve from last season.
Wells is leading the team this season averaging 15 points per game. Devinney (11 ppg), Golden (10 ppg) and O'Keefe (9 ppg) are the other top scorers.
Sometimes Stefko will play Coyne and McGeough at the same time.
"When we play Kristina and Kristen we get really tall and long," Stefko said.
Golden is the top defender on the team and is often tasked with shadowing the opponent's best player. She can also get involved offensively. Last Thursday in the Bethel Park tournament she scored a game-high 17 in a 45-34 win against Butler Area.
The Chartiers Valley defense has been one of the best in the WPIAL. The Colts are allowing 39.1 points per game through eight games.
"Our defense has certainly been the best part of our team," Stefko said. "It is already our biggest strength and we can still play a lot better on defense. A lot of the success of our defense starts with Alexa."
With its top six players back from last season, this year was as good as any for Chartiers Valley to make the jump to Class AAAA.
"This year it is certainly easy to embrace the challenge," Stefko said. "We are not going to be overwhelmed by the size of some of these teams."