Excitement level high as Quaker Valley basketball teams return from layoff

Sunday, January 10, 2021 | 9:01 AM

In the first five minutes of practice on Jan. 4, Quaker Valley girls basketball coach Tom Demko could tell his girls were excited to be back.

“We usually warm up with some layups and that told us right there. Wow,” Demko said. “They went hard in the first five minutes, and it was like all this time off just built up and they just needed to let off some steam.”

In mid-December, Gov. Tom Wolf put a pause on high school athletics as coronavirus cases in Western Pennsylvania climbed. Teams were approved to resume practice Jan. 4, and they could play games after completing four mandatory practices to restart.

After the layoff, the boys and the girls Quaker Valley basketball teams were eager to get back on the court. Despite his players’ excitement, boys coach Mike Mastroianni said he did have to limit his players a little bit during their first practice back.

“It was definitely a fun day, and I think between the team and the coaches, it was something that everyone really anticipated,” Mastroianni said. “With that excitement, though, we weren’t trying to win everything on that first day. We were just trying to understand we were back in the gym touching the ball and actually just celebrating and happy to be in the gym together.”

Before its season was interrupted, the Quaker Valley girls’ team was put in the position to get its first game in despite the circumstances. Although they lost to Penn Hills, 48-40, Demko said the game taught the Quakers a lot about what they needed to accomplish over their three-week break.

Demko used that information and stayed in touch with his players over the course of the pause. He had individual Zoom sessions with each player and went over the game film with them so they could hit the ground running when they came back to practice.

“Being able to get one in before that layoff allowed us to step back and say, ‘OK, what did we do well and what do we need to work on?’ ” Demko said “It really helped us to take a look at some things. The film doesn’t lie, and we were able to see some things within our team that we can fix and things we did well.”

While the girls got a game in, the boys didn’t have an opportunity to do so. But, they put the work in during their early season practices and were able to install plays that allowed them to get to the level of play they felt like they needed to be at.

By the time the layoff came around, Mastroianni said he felt his team was starting to reach that point. Now they just have to get back to that level of familiarity.

“I think the biggest challenge is just redeveloping continuity,” Mastroianni said. “I’ve always thought and taught basketball on both ends as a big continuity thing. So, we’re just trying to get back to where we were before that layoff and that takes multiple days of practice.”

While the boys are looking to redevelop the continuity they built up before the layoff, the girls are looking to get back into game shape and work on their conditioning.

“It’s like coming back from an injury,” Demko said. “You’re not going to be in that player’s form until you get a few games in and that competition.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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