Quaker Valley boys exceed expectations to challenge for section title

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Sunday, February 5, 2023 | 11:01 AM


A section title still was within grasp of the Quaker Valley boys basketball team in games at the end of January.

The defending WPIAL champion Quakers were tied with South Allegheny atop Section 4-4A with a 6-1 record. QV ended last month 11-5 overall; SA was 15-2.

“We have shown continued growth and a much better awareness of our roles and responsibilities,” QV coach Mike Mastroianni said. “I’m very proud of our progress with the limited experience we had entering the season.

“If you go back to our offseason play, our seniors have given us great leadership and have really led the way with a committed core of underclassmen.”

Quaker Valley started the 2022-23 season by winning six of its first eight games after finishing 27-1 — the Quakers won 27 consecutive contests — as the PIAA Class 4A runners-up a year ago.

QV was averaging 55 ppg and has been led offensively by junior guard Joey Coyle with an 18.1 ppg scoring average. Coyle also leads the team in steals.

“Joey is having an outstanding season, and his consistent play in all areas has been a big factor in our play,” Mastroianni said. “Joey is an outstanding perimeter shooter with great ball skills and is a strong finisher around the basket.”

Coyle and senior guards Troy Kozar and Noah Jordan control the backcourt for QV with support from junior Charlie Griffith and sophomore Rocco Luchette, who suffered a season-ending injury in his team’s 47-43 section win Jan. 17 against Montour

Kozar is the team’s second-leading scorer with an 11.8 ppg average. He is the team leader in assists, free-throw percentage and blocks.

The only returning starter from last year’s WPIAL championship squad was Daniel Bartels, a 6-foot-3 senior forward who is QV’s leading rebounder in 2022-23.

“I think overall we have done really well,” Bartels said. “A lot of people counted us out, so it feels good to be competing for the top of the section.

“Personally, I think I’ve done all right. There’s always room to improve. I think I’m still figuring out the best way to help all my teammates and find opportunities to score for myself. I’m definitely looking forward to the (postseason).”

Bartels is flanked in the front-court by a pair of 6-4 sophomores, Dana Kromah and Dom Cox-Giles.

The Quakers’ starting five consists of Coyle, Kozar, Jordan, Bartels and Kromah.

Leading reserves include Cox-Giles, Griffith, freshman guard Zach Washington and senior forward Jackson Kerley.

“Jackson Kerley has been injured for most of the season, and we are hoping he gets an opportunity to return some time in February,” Mastroianni said. “Charlie Griffith has been a top reserve and has also started a few games.”

QV was scheduled to play at West Mifflin, Avonworth and Montour and at home against South Allegheny in its final four section games. The Quakers defeated West Mifflin, 60-47, on Jan. 31.

“We have a difficult stretch of section games as we enter the last two weeks of the regular season that will have us ready for the playoffs,” Mastroianni said, “and we look forward to trending in the right direction with continued improvement.”

South Allegheny, meanwhile, began the season with 13 consecutive victories before a 61-56 nonsection loss to New Castle and a shocking 63-58 section setback to Avonworth.

The Gladiators were averaging a section-best 60.1 ppg as a team, led by four players averaging double figures.

The team leaders are senior guard Bryce Epps and his 23 ppg average and junior forward Michael Michalski with a 15.9 ppg average. Two other leading scorers are sophomore guard Cameron Epps (13.4 ppg) and junior guard Jeston Beatty (13.1 ppg).

Quaker Valley moved into Section 4-4A this year, joining Avonworth, East Allegheny, Montour, South Allegheny and West Mifflin.

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