Quaker Valley falls to Philadelphia power Neumann-Goretti in state finals

Thursday, March 24, 2022 | 9:29 PM

HERSHEY — Adou Thiero blocked three first-quarter shots, Quaker Valley scored 11 consecutive points and the Quakers held a slim lead over an eight-time state champion.

Momentum was on QV’s side, but it didn’t last.

Neumann-Goretti had four Division I recruits among its starting five, and they certainly played like it. The Philadelphia Catholic League champion dominated the second quarter, built a 14-point lead by halftime and wore down the Quakers, who lost 93-68 in the PIAA Class 4A final Thursday night at Giant Center.

The Saints played aggressive on-ball defense, extended out on QV’s shooters and allowed only four points in the entire second quarter.

“I knew they were going to be good, I knew it was going to be a tough game, but they definitely were better than I expected,” senior Markus Frank said. “That’s a Philly team. You’ve got to expect big things from them, but that was a lot bigger than I expected.”

The win improved Neumann-Goretti’s state championship record to 9-0 — all since 2010.

Quaker Valley (27-1) was hoping to win its first.

The Quakers had reached Hershey undefeated with a team that will be remembered as likely the best in school history. Yet, they left Giant Center without the perfect ending they’d wanted, and they left somewhat disgruntled with the matchup.

“They have kids from everywhere. We are kids from Sewickley,” said Thiero, the Quakers’ only D1 recruit. “We did our best to try to go out and compete. It’s hard to compete against kids that are as athletic as you, and they have multiple people that can do that.”

One of Neumann-Goretti’s starters, sophomore guard Rob Wright, already has offers from Wake Forest, Syracuse and others. Another, 6-7 junior forward Sultan Adewale, is a newcomer who’s originally from Great Britain, and spent last year in Saint Louis. He has offers from ACC, Big 12 and Big Ten schools.

QV coach Mike Mastroianni said Thursday that the state playoff system should be reevaluated, and he talked briefly with PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi as they walked off the court. Neumann-Goretti has now defeated a WPIAL opponent six times in the state finals, including five traditional public schools.

“They’re playing within the rules,” Mastroianni said of Neumann-Goretti. “I just think we should reevaluate, and I think a lot of people do.”

Neuman-Goretti had six players score in double figures led by senior Aamir Hurst with 20 points. Wright scored 16, junior Bruce Smith had 14, sophomore Khaafiq Myers had 12 and senior Masud Stewart and Adewale had 10 points each.

Neumann-Goretti shot 63% from the field (37 for 58) and forced 14 turnovers.

“I’m not going to apologize for us being a good team,” said Neumann-Goretti coach Carl Arrigale, noting that he never asked to join the state playoffs. “They tell us where the game is and we go play. I coached 15 or 18 years without this and we were fine.

“Our (Catholic League) game at the Palestra, nothing matches that with 9,000 people at a high school game screaming and hollering. It’s a great atmosphere, so (getting players focused for the PIAA playoffs) is actually hard. A lot harder than people think.”

Frank led the Quakers with 29 points and 10 rebounds, and Thiero had 18 points and 10 rebounds. Jack Gardinier added 11 points. The Quakers shot just 42% overall (27 for 63).

Quaker Valley had led 16-15 about five minutes into the first quarter after Gardinier made a 3-pointer from the left corner. The score was tied at 19, 21 and 23, before Neumann-Goretti pulled away with a 17-4 run that started late in the first quarter and consumed the entire second quarter.

Thiero was a catalyst for QV’s early success with eight points, two assists and three blocks in the first quarter, but was silenced in the second. Instead, the Quakers turned the ball over seven times in the first five minutes of the second.

“We knew (Thiero) was going to be dangerous in the open court,” Arrigale said. “We kind of let him get downhill on us and share the ball. … But we kept scoring, so I knew we’d be OK. It was just a matter of us tightening up defense.”

The Quakers went nearly seven minutes in the second quarter without scoring a point. Their first basket was a layup by Frank with 70 seconds left in the half. Neumann-Goretti led 40-27 at half, and stretched that lead to 20 in the third quarter.

“They’re good in all areas and they really shot the ball at a high level,” Mastroianni said. “Quite honestly, most teams are down by 30. For us to sort of hang around with as well as they shot, is a credit to who we are.”

This was Quaker Valley’s second appearance in the state finals. The Quakers lost in double overtime in 1999. Thiero didn’t criticize Neumann-Goretti, saying “basketball is basketball,” but added that it does have an advantage.

“It definitely does play some sort of a factor because you can just pick pieces, put them on a team and have a team,” Thiero said. “But then from our side, we grow into a team.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.


More High School Basketball

What to watch for in WPIAL sports on Feb. 24, 2024: Semifinal round ready to tip off
Baldwin celebrates 1st WPIAL playoff win in 21 years with victory over North Allegheny
Top-seeded Mt. Lebanon shuts down Pine-Richland to earn spot in 6A semifinals
High school roundup for Feb. 23, 2024: Aliquippa flexes muscles in 2A quarterfinal win over Serra Catholic
Christian Ito, Upper St. Clair come to life in 4th quarter to beat Butler