Belle Vernon to face monumental challenge in Quaker Valley in PIAA 2nd round
Thursday, March 10, 2022 | 6:36 PM
Belle Vernon knows it could be in for its toughest challenge of the season.
It would be that way even if the Leopards had Devin Whitlock in the lineup.
But with their best player out again, it is probably going to take another all-hands-on-deck effort like the one the Leopards gave Tuesday — and then some — for them to have a shot in the PIAA second round.
Belle Vernon (20-4) will take on vaunted Quaker Valley (24-0) at 6 p.m. Friday at North Allegheny as the Leopards try to stretch their season into the state quarterfinals.
Quaker Valley, led by the dominant tandem of Marcus Frank and Adou Thiero, both 6-foot-6 forwards, won the WPIAL championship with a 61-52 victory over Montour, the team that beat Belle Vernon in the WPIAL semifinals.
After that semifinal loss, during the handshake line, Leopards senior point guard Devin Whitlock “slapped” a Montour player, which led to a school-imposed, two-game suspension.
With Whitlock out for Tuesday’s first-round game at Obama Academy, senior Daniel Gordon and sophomore Quinton Martin took the reins in a 71-53 victory.
Gordon scored a career-high 27 points and Martin, who has come into his own with a terrific season, added 22 with 13 rebounds.
Both players had five steals.
The 6-foot-3 Martin moved to point guard to fill in for Whitlock, who has 1,708 career points.
“We needed them to step up and they did,” said Leopards coach Joe Salvino, who won his 700th game Tuesday — his 61st win since arriving at Belle Vernon after a storied career at Monessen. “Daniel did a nice job shooting the ball. We know he can score for us. And Quinton was pretty good handling the ball. I always tell him if he put in the time, he could be just as good in basketball as he is in football.”
Martin embraced the role, even though he spent a lot of time away from the basket on offense.
“I didn’t really practice to play the point,” he said. “I thought I did a pretty good job. We knew we had to step up.”
Belle Vernon had a different look to it without Whitlock. Salvino subbed more and eight players scored.
But there clearly was a void.
Gone was Whitlock’s ability to drive the lane and either deliver his patented floaters or dish off to Martin.
The defense had to work a little harder with one of their top steals leaders missing.
And with no vocal floor leader, the Leopards had to realign the way they communicated.
Still, they never trailed Obama and were sharp with their defensive pressure.
Quaker Valley will be a tough matchup inside, and with Martin on the perimeter, the Leopards may need to find their touch from the outside.
Frank and Thiero are scorers, but they are all over the glass, and it would be hard to name a better one-two pair of shot blockers.
“We’re going to have to play our best defense — some great defense — to play with them,” Salvino said. “They are a very strong team. We didn’t play as well in the second half (Tuesday). We took time to rest on defense, and we got lazy with the ball on offense. We can’t do that again.”
Quaker Valley averages 72.8 points and Belle Vernon 70.3.
Friday’s winner moves on to face District 10 champion Fairview (24-2) or Lincoln Park (18-7), the third-place team out of the WPIAL.
Quaker Valley and Lincoln Park play in the same section (2), along with Montour.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
Tags: Belle Vernon
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