Chartiers Valley and Upper St. Clair will meet for the third time this season when the section rivals face off in the WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinals Friday night.
But as Chartiers Valley coach Spencer Stefko sees it, it will be the first time his team sees this version of the Panthers.
"You have to be careful because you are not going to see the same [Upper St. Clair] team," Stefko said.
The teams first met on Dec. 17 when Upper St. Clair led, 23-17, at halftime but watched Chartiers Valley dominate the second half on its way to a 67-31 win.
One month later the teams met again and Chartiers Valley won, but in a much more competitive game, 59-45.
"Upper St. Clair wasn't the same team the second time we saw them and we anticipate they will be a different team the third time," Stefko said. "We don't expect Upper St. Clair to be the team we have beaten twice and watching film, bears that out. They are a much better team on film."
No. 5 seed Chartiers Valley (17-6) advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals by edging No. 12 Shaler, 31-29, while No. 13 Upper St. Clair (12-11) upset No. 4 Hempfield, 53-48. They will play at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Canon-McMillan.
"We know a whole lot about them and they know a whole lot about us," Upper St. Clair coach Ernie Koontz said. "With all the teams in our section, we know you cannot afford to take a quarter off. You have to have that high intensity for four quarters so you don't get behind."
Stefko said the ability of a team to adapt and improve as the season goes on is one of the major differences between Class AAA and AAAA. The Colts would know, they competed in Class AAA the previous two seasons.
Both of these programs bring a wealth of postseason experience to the table. Chartiers Valley reached the WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA semifinals last season. Upper St. Clair reached the WPIAL Class AAAA semifinals and the PIAA second round. Combined the two teams played 13 playoff games last season.
Stefko saw that postseason experience come into play on Friday in the close win against Shaler.
"That game was a good example," Stefko said. "We had some things that weren't going our way and on the bench and on the floor there was a sense of calm. The Shaler kids are really good players but they were young. I felt a poise -- even though we turned the ball over -- looking in their eyes, there wasn't a fear, there was a focus and confidence."
To find a way to upset the Colts, Upper St. Clair will have to contain senior guards Mariah Wells and Kassidy O'Keefe. In the two regular-season meetings against Upper St. Clair, Wells and O'Keefe scored a combined 32 points.
"[Chartiers Valley] primarily runs a four-guard offense," Koontz said. "Any one of the guards can be deadly, that is why you have to make sure you stay close."
Wells scored 11 in the playoff win against Shaler.
Along with Wells and O'Keefe, sophomore guard Alexa Golden, junior guard Kenna Devinney, junior forward Kristin McGeough and senior guard/forward Kristina Coyne are other key contributors for the Colts.
The Panthers are led by sisters Jordan and Madison Serio, the daughters of Duquesne University coach Suzie McConnell-Serio. Jordan, a senior, plays point guard while Madison is a shooting guard. Jordan scored 13 and Madison added 12 in the first-round win over Hempfield.
Senior Natalie Condo and Elayna Kaylor start at forward. Kaylor had a team-high 10 points in the second regular-season meeting against Chartiers Valley.
With starting junior guard Constance Raftis battling a shoulder injury, Koontz has been using a number of different players in starting roles and off the bench. Sophomore forward Rachel Mazzie came off the bench to score 14 in the playoff win against Hempfield, including 12 points in the second half.
Sophomore guard Diandra Conwell is seeing significant playing time and freshman guard Emma Hasco got the start in the first round.
"Playing in our section, we are used to seeing rematches in the playoffs," Koontz said. "That is exactly how we were thinking. This is how it has been the past four or five years, we have always had two, sometimes three in the final four."
The winner of Friday night's game will make it at least one Section 4 team in the semifinals.