Quaker Valley boys have championship goals

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Monday, November 27, 2017 | 11:00 PM


Quaker Valley has yet to have its full team in for a boys basketball practice this season, but coach Mike Mastroianni was clear: He's perfectly fine with that.

A state championship by the boys soccer team and the football's team's ongoing state tournament run has made this the longest fall sports season in QV history, and the football team is a PIAA semifinal win Friday from extending their season beyond the basketball team's opening game Dec. 8 against Sto-Rox in the Moon tipoff tournament.

But basketball season will go on as scheduled, and lest Quakers fans forget, their team is returning three starters from a squad that last season reached the WPIAL final and PIAA semifinals.

“Amos (Luptak) and Wolfie (Moser), the two seniors we lost, were important players, but a lot of our guys coming back played in those big games. The conversation has centered around (winning a championship), really since we walked off the court back in March,” Mastroianni said. “That's the reason for the amount of time they've put in during the summer and fall in the gym.”

Two of those returning starters, senior guard and Drexel recruit Coletrane Washington and junior forward Danny Conlan, have been leading the Quakers during preseason practices. The third, senior forward Ricky Guss, is the football team's quarterback.

Mastroianni said Guss and other football/basketball players, such as junior forward Ethan Moore, will have plenty of time to adjust to basketball season, and he hopes the lessons of this football season can carry over to the hardwood.

“What those guys will bring to the team without touching a basketball or scoring a point will be so valuable. I'm a QV guy and the (athletic director), so my first thing is I hope they go out there and win it all. … When their season is over, I've already offered to let them take a little time off. I don't want them to come in right away; they can take some time off to rest and regroup,” Mastroianni said.

“We usually have a lot of multi-sport athletes, but this year, there are a lot who have been in the gym already, maybe more than in years past. We miss those fall sports guys and what they bring, but as a group, I don't think we've had as many guys in the gym during fall as we have had this year.”

Washington will be the focal point for many QV opponents, especially now that he will move from a wing position to become more of a ball-handler. Juniors Jackson Zernich and Kyle Wolf and sophomore K.C. Johns are among the players expected to help fill the vacant backcourt spots, but much of what the Quakers do will rest on the 6-foot-4 Washington as both a point guard and a scorer.

“I'm definitely expecting the best defender from each team playing against me, and sometimes sending two guys at me. We played a lot of fall league games, and that's what happened, so I'm getting used to it,” Washington said before the official start of practice. “I like the chance to have the ball in my hands more. … But it will be my job to spread it around.”

“We're asking him to do some things we haven't asked him to do the last two years. We're also asking him to score, which he's done well, but he's going to have to help us create balance. I think the strongest version of our team is one where we have multiple people scoring,” Mastroianni said.

In the frontcourt, Conlan and Guss will get big help from 6-7 senior Alex Skowron, who his coach said is at full strength after playing last year while recovering from injury. Junior Christian Johnson and Moore upon his return will make the Quakers deep and capable at every position, a must to compete with the likes of New Castle, Central Valley, Beaver and Beaver Falls for the top spot in Class 4A's tough Section 2.

“There should be about 10 or 11 guys who make up the core of the team. The part that's the most difficult, it's the same guys, but some are sliding into roles that are different. That'll be the learning curve earlier in the season, but it's nothing they can't adjust to,” Mastroianni said.

Matt Grubba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com

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