Quaker Valley girls basketball finds success in season of change

Sunday, March 6, 2022 | 11:01 AM

This season, Quaker Valley’s girls basketball team continued its recent tradition of advancing to the WPIAL playoffs.

The Quakers secured fourth place in Section 2-4A with an 8-6 record, finishing behind Blackhawk (14-0), Beaver (11-3) and Montour (10-4).

The four section playoff teams landed four of the top eight seeds in the WPIAL Class 4A tournament, with Blackhawk at No. 1, Beaver No. 4, Montour No. 6 and QV No. 8.

“I’m very pleased with the team’s progress and results this season,” QV coach Ken Johns said. “To think back on where we started — new coaches, players in different roles — there was a lot of new and the players all handled it all very well.

“The team really grew as the season went along. They really came together on and off the floor. We talk about getting better every day, and the girls really took to that and I think it showed. And not just in the wins but in how they played, even in some tough losses.”

QV has qualified for a postseason berth four years in a row and advanced to the quarterfinals this season.

The Quakers beat No. 9 Belle Vernon, 43-21, in the first round and lost to undefeated Blackhawk, 62-24, in the quarterfinals to end their WPIAL schedule with a 12-11 record.

“To make it into the playoffs in such a tough section was an accomplishment,” Johns said, “and then to make it to the quarterfinals I think validated a lot of hard work by everyone all year. We improved throughout the year, and I think we were playing some of our best basketball near the end.”

QV has produced a winning record in each of the last four seasons and advanced to the WPIAL championship game in 2020-21.

The Quakers were not finished after the loss to Blackhawk. They qualified for the PIAA tournament when Blackhawk defeated Elizabeth Forward in the WPIAL semifinals.

“I told the girls in our very first meeting that I thought we might surprise some people,” Johns said. “I wasn’t surprised by too much because I knew what we had coming back and how it might fit together. I wasn’t sure, but I was hoping it would come together.”

QV has been led in 2021-22 by senior captains Amelia Herrmann, a 5-foot-10 forward, Lauren Blackmer, a 5-11 forward, and Allie Ponzo, a 5-6 guard.

“I think our seniors really showed a lot of growth in leadership as the season progressed,” Johns said. “Amelia, Allie and Lauren really accepted their roles well and played well for us down the stretch.”

Herrmann started playing basketball at QV in the fifth grade. She also competes in AAU hoops; she has played for SLAAM in the last three AAU seasons. This spring, Hermann plans to compete in the throwing events with the girls track and field team.

The QV senior is captain of the mock trial team and co-president of the French Club. She is a five-year participant in the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science and belongs to the Cultural Alliance.

“I’m really proud of our team’s performance this season,” Herrmann said. “We have grown a lot.”

Herrmann is a straight-A student with a 4.8 GPA. She plans to study chemical engineering in college and possibly continue her basketball career.

She has several fond memories from her basketball career at Quaker Valley, and she listed three:

• “Beating Ambridge to qualify for the WPIAL playoffs and upsetting Freeport to qualify for the PIAA playoffs my freshman year.”

• “Beating Montour this year was great. It was a really proud moment because we came together and executed our plan after they beat us by 30 earlier in the season.”

• “Being a part of this team, we have grown really close, and it has been a really great way to end my high school career.”

The Quakers’ starting lineup this season also included junior guards Maria Helkowski and Nora Johns.

“Maria took advantage of a lot more playing time this year and was a big contributor,” said Johns, QV’s first-year coach. “We asked Nora to do a lot — handle the ball, distribute, score and most nights defend the other team’s best player. She handled that all very well.

“We also had more contributions off the bench. Shannon Von Kaenel was our leading rebounder, Madi Chapman came in and contributed some key minutes in some big games and Annica Kagle did the same.”

Johns was hired as QV’s coach in July to take over for Tom Demko, who resigned after three years in charge.

The season proved to be a learning process from start to finish for QV’s rookie floor boss.

“We had a lot of people get some valuable experience that will lend itself well into next season,” he said. “While I am happy with how things have progressed so far this year, I wouldn’t say I’m satisfied. I learned a lot, and the players did as well.

“We’ll head into next year much the same as this year, looking to get better every day. Every season brings a new team and new team dynamics. We’ll have to see how that comes together.”


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