Chartiers Valley basketball teams focus on highlights after seasons end early

Sunday, March 26, 2023 | 11:01 AM

The Chartiers Valley boys and girls basketball teams each enjoyed some highs during the 2022-23 season.

However, their campaigns may be more remembered for the low of how they ended.

The Colts girls welcomed a new coach in Mike Semplice as the team began the season with a 5-2 record through the end of the 2022 calendar year.

Once Section 2-6A play began, Chartiers Valley held its own and finished in third place behind top seed Upper St. Clair and defending champion Mt. Lebanon.

“Although we made playoffs, I would have liked for us to have been more consistent throughout the season,” Semplice said. “We were never able to string together more than two or three consecutive wins. We also were not able to maintain a high compete level for a whole game. I was pleased with the girls buying in, and we started to come together in the second half of the season.”

The high compete level for four quarters came back to cost the Colts in the playoffs.

In the Class 6A quarterfinals, Chartiers Valley led Mt. Lebanon by 16 points with 3½ minutes left in the fourth quarter when the Blue Devils pulled off a dramatic comeback with a stunning 47-46 victory.

“The loss to Lebo was difficult because we prepared well and played well,” Semplice said. “The coaching decisions I made down the stretch cost us, and I felt terrible letting those kids down.”

Semplice was pleased with his entire team, but three underclassmen really stood out with their play.

“(Sophomore) Emma Reynolds showed she is a talented player who is tough to defend because of her athleticism and skill,” Semplice said. “(Junior) Ella Cupka and (sophomore) Lilah Turnbull both have a high skill level and can create offense for us and can handle being pressured.”

The Colts were young, and there is great optimism looking ahead to next season already.

“We have everyone returning and I am sure we will be hungry to improve as a staff and team,” Semplice said. “We are looking forward to the offseason with the goals of being tougher, getting better and eliminating bad basketball.”

The Chartiers Valley boys could have had great success in the postseason. Problem is, after a great start, the Colts missed the WPIAL playoffs by one game.

“I consider it a good season and a good experience for us all,” coach Brandon Sensor said. “I measure our success on more than just wins and losses. The guys were great to be around all year. They worked hard and created friendships and bonds with their teammates that will last forever. Obviously, the expectations we set for ourselves are high and we were not satisfied, but there was a lot of good that transpired this season.

“We nearly doubled our win total from a year ago, our team gained a ton of varsity level experience, which is something we lacked coming into the season. We had eight non-seniors playing varsity minutes this year and three of them were freshmen.”

Playing in the incredibly competitive Section 4-5A, the Colts started the season 12-0 and were ranked No. 1 at one point in Class 5A.

“Maximum effort on defense and we played as a team on offense and defense,” Senor said about his team’s great start. “When you go back and watch those games, the energy we played with was fantastic and everyone was really committed on the defensive side of the ball. We shared the ball well on offense and didn’t take a lot of bad shots. We found the open man. That’s the recipe for success if you ask me: Play great defense and find great shots on offense.”

However, after suffering their first loss of the season to Moon in a section game Jan. 10, the close losses kept mounting.

“It starts with me,” Sensor said. “I didn’t do a good enough job of putting my guys in positions to have success. We definitely struggled against the size in our section and things got tougher for us on the offensive end. We started to figure it out toward the last week or two, but we just needed a little more time.

“The guys continued to play hard and compete until the end, and I’m proud of them for that. It was a great learning experience for us all though, players and coaches. We will be better in the future having battled through the adversity we did.”

Sensor loved the contributions from many of the Colts players through the good times and the bad. Among those he pointed out as key contributors were seniors Drew Sleva, Dylan Marian and Brendan Cruz, who set a great example for the younger kids, juniors T.J. Kubicsek, Gionni Jones, Rudy Morris and Jaxon Specht, who played hard and competed, and freshmen Julian Semplice, Danny Slizik and Jake Lewis, who all played a big role and started at times.

Many opponents’ eyes were one again fixed on slowing down sophomore Jayden Davis, who averaged over 25 points per game.

“I thought he had a really good sophomore season. I think people forget he is only a sophomore,” Sensor said. “Everyone knows that he can score the ball, but I was happy to see him improve his efficiency of his scoring. (His field goal percentage went up 7% from his freshman year.)

“He is a great rebounder for us, averaging seven a game. He showed that he can be a playmaker for his teammates and a menace on the defensive side of the ball too. He is just going to continue to get better as a player and a leader for us.”

With the return of Davis and seven others who saw significant playing time this year, Sensor has a lot to be excited about for his Colts next season.

“There’s a ton of talent in the program and coming up through the youth,” he said. “What’s most exciting for this upcoming year are the individuals we have in the program. They are all really good kids, good students and good athletes. They all work hard and put in a ton of time to improve. They’re coachable and want to be coached.

“They’re a breath of fresh air and going to be really good because of it. We’re going to work hard, we’re going to get stronger, we’re going to play selflessly and as a team, and we’re going to have a lot of fun getting better.”


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