The full-court press has been a staple of the Quigley Catholic girls' basketball program over the past few years.
The Spartans have ridden that pressure defense to five section titles in six years and trips to the WPIAL semifinals in 2008 and 2009.
First-year coach Bill DelTondo was well aware of the recent string of success but he was also aware of his personnel that included three new starters this season. He opted to move mostly away from the full-court press and stick primarily with a man-to-man defense.
The defense has looked drastically different, but the results have been similar.
Quigley has extended its section winning streak that dates back to the 2010-11 season to 23 games with a win against Aliquippa Monday night. The Spartans are now 13-4 overall and 9-0 in WPIAL Class A Section 1. They have already clinched at least a share of their second consecutive section title
"Our style has been a little different," DelTondo said. "Quigley used to basically press from beginning to end. I think with the people we have, we are more comfortable with half-court [defense]. Our man-to-man was a big change for us."
While changing the defense has helped, it is the offense that has really stood out in section play. Quigley is averaging 55.4 points per game, most in the section and more than nine points per game higher than the next best offense (Cornell at 45.8).
Quigley returned only two starters this season, senior forward Morgan Dillon and junior guard/forward Kristen Jackson. Even with three new starters in the lineup, the Spartans got off to a fast start winning the St. Joseph tip-off tournament by defeating the host team and Ford City. The young team did hit a rough patch dropping non-section games to Ambridge Area, Serra Catholic, Quaker Valley and Beaver Area.
"We struggled a little bit," DelTondo said. "We were trying to figure out who was going to be in there and getting used to playing together. The one nice thing -- we found out we have more players than we normally do whom we can count on."
With a large 19-player roster, DelTondo has a deep bench and routinely uses eight or nine players a game.
Sophomore Kaitlyn Smith starts at point guard and senior Amber Powell and freshman Gabrielle Smith also start in the backcourt. Dillon plays in the post while Jackson, a 5-foot-10 junior, can play either guard or forward. Jackson leads the team in scoring, averaging about 14 points per game.
Dillon brings with her a wealth of experience. She is second on the team, scoring around 10 points per game. She saw playing time as a freshman on the Quigley team that reached the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA quarterfinals.
"It is definitely nice to have her leadership," DelTondo said. "She has been through it before, she has been in these kinds of games that get you ready for the playoffs. She knows the drill and can teach the younger players.
One of those younger players is Smith, one of the big surprises this year. A freshman guard, she is one of the taller players on the team at 5-11.
"She has long arms and makes up for some of our mistakes with her length," DelTondo said.
On the deep Quigley bench sophomore guard Jaylen Young, junior guard Brittany Jackson, sophomore forward Liz Duer and senior guard/forward Molly Patsch are some of the. Brittany Jackson is Kristen's twin sister.
The section title remains a focus for the Spartans. They have remaining contests against Rochester tonight, Sewickley Academy on Monday and Western Beaver Wednesday.
"Every year the importance of winning the section [title] has carried through with all these girls," DelTondo said. "That was something we talked about. There was a tradition and we didn't want to be the ones who let someone down."