Quaker Valley boys see remarkable season end with playoff loss to Belle Vernon

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Sunday, March 5, 2023 | 11:01 AM


The section champion Quaker Valley boys basketball team had a tough draw in the first round of the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs.

Really tough.

The Quakers, who shared the Section 4-4A championship with South Allegheny and received the No. 7 seed for the playoffs, lost to visiting Belle Vernon, 81-55, on Feb. 20 in their first-round matchup.

“I think Belle Vernon was the best team we played this year,” said junior Joey Coyle, QV’s leading scorer with a 17.8 ppg average. “I am proud of all my guys. We proved many people wrong and won the section.”

QV has captured back-to-back section titles and has been a section champ in three of the past four seasons and four of the last six.

“I am extremely proud of this group,” QV coach Mike Mastroianni said. “Their daily approach and their willingness to adapt and get better through adversity was a rewarding experience.

“The experience of getting better and becoming the best version of ourselves by winning a section championship is a great lesson for our players to experience moving forward.”

Belle Vernon, the 10th seed, finished third in Section 3-4A and entered the playoffs with a 10-11 record after losing four of its final five regular-season games.

The Leopards were the PIAA and WPIAL champions in Class 3A football last fall.

Nine members of the football team were listed on the BV boys basketball roster.

Quaker Valley won five of six games prior to the playoffs and ended the season with a 14-7 record.

But the skill, athleticism and physicality displayed by the Leopards were unbeatable in the first-round matchup.

QV kept it close in the first half and trailed 35-31 at halftime. The Leopards outcored the home team 46-24 in the second half.

Belle Vernon sophomore guard Zion Moore led all scorers with a 32-point performance. Coyle paced the Quakers with a 20-point showing.

“I would have to say the best player we played against was either Bryce Epps (of South Allegheny) or Zion Moore,” said Coyle, a 6-foot-1 guard. “I cannot pick just one; both are great players.”

Quaker Valley and South Allegheny, which landed the eighth seed for the playoffs with an 18-4 record, tied for first in the section with 8-2 marks. The two teams split decisions during the regular season while QV also lost to Montour and SA also fell to Avonworth.

The Quakers (46.3 ppg) and Gladiators (49.0 ppg) were two of the leading defensive teams in 4A.

Despite having losing records, Montour (9-14, 5-5), West Mifflin (10-13, 4-6) and Avonworth (8-14, 4-6) all qualified for the postseason out of Section 4.

Offensively, Quaker Valley was paced this season by Coyle and senior guards Troy Kozar (10.6 ppg) and Noah Jordan (9.1 ppg). The 6-3 Jordan was tops in 3-point field goal percentage at 42%.

Daniel Bartels, a 6-3 senior forward, Dana Kromah, a sophomore forward, and Coyle were the team’s leading rebounders. The 6-4 Kromah ended up No. 1 in blocks and field goal percentage at 63%.

Bartels was the only senior in the starting lineup against Belle Vernon and the only returning starter from last year’s WPIAL championship and PIAA runner-up team.

“I think we did really well this season,” Bartels said. “It was obviously a disappointing loss (to Belle Vernon), but we proved a lot of people wrong and were able to win the section. I’m definitely proud of this season.”

Bartels was a two-year starter and three-year letterman for the Quakers. He plans to major in either engineering or mechanical engineering in college.

“Overall, I’m very proud of my basketball career at QV,” Bartels said. “Winning the WPIAL and being a state runner-up last year are probably my biggest achievements, with winning the section this year a close second.

“All my teammates and coaches made my time on the team very valuable and memorable and overall very rewarding and special to be a part of so many great teams.”

Bartels, Kozar, Jordan and Jackson Kerley, a 6-3 forward and top reserve, represented the senior class on this year’s squad.

“Congrats to our four seniors,” Mastroianni said, “who were all four-year players and part of three section championships, a WPIAL championship and members of our state runner-up team. We will miss them and thank them for being a big part of our program the last four seasons.”

While Belle Vernon was a difficult opening-round draw, Bartels said South Allegheny was the top opponent to face the Quakers this year.

“I think the best overall team we played was South Allegheny,” he said. “They have a lot of experience and play well together. I also think the best player was Bryce Epps. We were able to contain him a bit better the second time around, but he was very hard to guard.

“Belle Vernon, with its size and athleticism, was by far the most athletic team we played all year. They have multiple guys that will probably play Division I football.”

One final statistic for the Quakers: Kozar, Coyle and 5-10 junior guard Brandon Griffith ranked 1-2-3 in assists.

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