Playing on the road, with a young and inexperienced team, the Quaker Valley boys basketball team was staring down a potential 0-3 start in section play on Jan. 4.
The young Quakers managed to rally back from an early deficit to edge Avonworth, 38-36.
That was Jan. 4, the win helped Quaker Valley improve to 1-2 in Class AA Section 6.
"That was huge, that was probably our biggest win of the year," Quaker Valley coach Mike Mastroianni said. "We found a way to win on the road to beat a good team. That actually got us started in how we are playing together. It was a confidence builder. They had a shot at the buzzer down two, we were able to get a stop."
That stop jump-started the season. The Quakers went on to win their next five contests by an average of 41 points. In all the Quakers won seven in a row.
That streak came to an end Tuesday, however, as the Quakers suffered a tough 78-75 overtime loss at Sto-Rox, Quaker Valley is 12-4 overall and 5-3 in the section, falling to third place behind the Vikings and Avonworth.
The five consecutive wins after the Avonworth win included four section contests. One of those section wins was a rematch from an early season loss. The Quakers lost fourth-quarter leads in their first two section games in December. They fell to Carlynton, 60-50, and Sto-Rox, 57-54. One month and four days later, in the return meeting against Carlynton, Quaker Valley steamrolled the Cougars, 76-25.
"We said that a number of times we could have some rough spots before New Year's," Mastroianni said. "We just wanted to get better as the season goes on and try to stay patient as coaches."
The progression from the first Carlynton game to the second is a pretty good indication of how much better this team has gotten.
In the first meetings with Carlynton and Sto-Rox, Quaker Valley was without senior guard Nelson Westwood. He is one of only two returning lettermen from last season. The only returning full-time starter from last season is senior guard/forward Burke Moser.
Moser was huge in the Avonworth win, scoring 18 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Overall, he leads the team in both categories, averaging 13.7 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game. He also leads the team in blocked shots with 12 total and steals with 2.3 per game.
The Quakers average 61.3 points per game but only Moser averages in double figures, a testament to the balanced scoring and how deep Mastroianni goes to his bench.
Junior guard Qadir Taylor and sophomore forward Chris Conlan start most of the games. Junior forward John Bernard, junior guards Winter Fondi and Christian Miller, senior guards Jack McGarry and Micah Glenn and sophomore guards Tre'won Marshall and Tyler Garbee also see significant playing time.
Mastroianni often will substitute for all five players at one time in a hockey-esque line change.
This group is the youngest Mastroianni has coached in the past six seasons at the school but they are also one of the tallest with Moser (6-3), Conlan (6-4), Westwood (6-2), Taylor (6-0), Bernard (6-3) and Glenn (6-1).
Just because of the extra height, Mastroianni is not about to get away from one of his coaching staples, a pressing defense.
"We are a longer team this year," Mastroianni said. "We still play fast, we still press. We will sub five guys in and out."
At 5-3 in the section Quaker Valley is battling for a playoff spot in a conference that features Sto-Rox (9-5, 6-1), Avonworth (10-6, 6-2), Northgate (10-6, 4-3), South Side Beaver (6-11, 4-4), Carlynton (4-11, 2-6) and Freedom Area (1-14, 0-8).
"Our seniors [Moser and Westwood] have been our glue," Mastroianni said. "Now our younger guys have gotten their feet wet and developed into their roles. We were thrown into the fire in December but now that has turned into a positive as we move near the end of January."
First Published January 24, 2013 5:00 AM