Quaker Valley players feel relief, resolve after WPIAL championship game win
Sunday, March 13, 2022 | 12:01 PM
Adou Thiero was not going to be denied.
The Quaker Valley senior finished with 31 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocks to lead the top-seeded Quakers to a 61-52 win March 3 against No. 2 Montour in the WPIAL Class 4A championship game at Petersen Events Center.
The WPIAL title was QV’s second and first since 1997.
“Winning the championship was a great feeling, but we aren’t satisfied yet,” said Thiero, a Division I talent. “We want to win the whole thing. After the game, we celebrated on the court then we started talking about states because that’s the last thing on the checklist.”
Quaker Valley has made four appearances in the finals in six years and finished as the WPIAL runner-up to New Castle in 2017, ’18 and ’19. The Quakers captured their first WPIAL crown in 1997 with a 57-49 victory over New Brighton in the Class 2A final.
This year’s championship was the third for coach Mike Mastroianni, who won with Quaker Valley in 1997 and with Bethel Park in 2007.
Thiero, a lightning-quick 6-foot-5 senior guard playing with a fractured thumb against Montour, was complemented by senior teammate Markus Frank’s 23 points.
Thiero, who averaged 24.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game this season, went 8 for 8 from the foul line in the final 72 seconds and tossed in 22 points in the second half.
He has had several big games in his varsity career.
Two this season include his 44-point performance Jan. 4 against Hopewell that broke the school’s single-game scoring record of 43 established by Grant Derner in 1980, and his 40-point effort Jan. 29 against Highlands in the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Showcase at Montour.
Considering the circumstances, could Thiero’s clutch, all-around effort in the WPIAL finals be the best game of his career?
“It could possibly be,” he said, “but there are some games where I didn’t need to do as much scoring but more of other things.”
Thiero and Frank, a 6-5 senior forward, scored 14 points between them in the first half against Montour, then clicked for 40 in the second.
Frank led Quaker Valley in scoring this season with a 27.2 point average. He shot 70% from the field, scoring mostly in the paint, and grabbed 9.3 rebounds per game.
Frank broke Thiero’s individual game scoring record with a 45-point performance Feb. 23 at home against Deer Lakes in the WPIAL quarterfinals.
QV’s frontcourt standout breathed a sigh of relief following the WPIAL championship game.
“It’s insane that we made it (to the WPIAL finals) because for many teams before us, it didn’t turn out that way for them,” Frank said. “Most of the game, I felt this weight on my shoulders, but as soon as the clock hit zero, that weight went away and I felt relieved.
“Now it’s time for a state title.”
The QV hoopsters took their first step toward a state championship with a 67-51 win March 8 against Hickory in the first round of the PIAA Class 4A playoffs.
Frank poured in 29 points, hitting on 12 of 16 field goal attempts. Thiero chipped in with 15, as the Quakers improved to 25-0.
There are four seniors and one junior in QV’s starting lineup this season. Thiero and Frank are joined by seniors Will Dunda, a 6-1 guard, and Jack Gardinier, a 6-0 guard, along with 6-3 junior forward Daniel Bartels.
“We are a team with defined roles with different strengths from all of our players,” Mastroianni said. “When scoring opportunities present themselves, Jack, Will and Dan are looking to score.”
Dunda, who netted 10 points against Hickory, was reflective following the WPIAL finals.
“Winning the championship was an incredible feeling. It was a great achievement and I am so proud of this group,” Dunda said. “Celebrating with Adou, Markus, Jack, Dan and all the guys was incredibly special.
“I was also thinking about the guys that came before me, guys that helped this group learn what it means to play for QV. Casey Johns, Danny Conlan, John Weir, Amos Luptak and many others all helped win this championship. But the best part was winning it for coach Maz.”
Gardinier averaged almost 10 points per game this season as the Quakers’ third-leading scoring threat.
“It feels great,” he said following the WPIAL championship game. “It wasn’t a surprise given how we’ve played all year, but it always feels amazing whenever your work pays off.
“I was kind of at a loss for words after the game. The locker room (atmosphere) after the medal ceremony was probably one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. It was like a huge weight being lifted off our shoulders.”
As the only non-senior in QV’s starting lineup, the team will be built next season around Bartels’ experience from this year’s championship run.
“I’m just grateful for what all the seniors bring to the team,” Bartels said. “All of them are different, and the combination makes it a lot of fun to go to practice and play with them all year. I think it’s really cool to be able to win a championship with this group of guys. The work we put in all year and offseason led up to that game, and I’m glad it all paid off.
“My biggest emotion (after the game) was relief. I felt that we were the best team in the WPIAL, and so I thought that we really should win it all. To be able to complete goals that we set at the beginning of the year is really satisfying, and I was relieved and happy we were able to finish the job in the WPIAL.”
Winning the second WPIAL title in school history left the Quakers with one final goal for the 2021-22 season.
“Our work isn’t done yet,” Gardinier said. “Our last goal is to win the state championship, and with our fans and community behind us, I think we can get it done.”
“We have worked extremely hard and stuck together through it all,” he said. “This season is not over. There is more to accomplish. We are excited for the next chapter of this season.”
QV beat Montour twice in section play this winter, winning 47-46 on Jan. 7 and 56-36 on Feb. 1.
The Quakers reached the WPIAL finals by defeating No. 8 Deer Lakes, 66-34, in the quarterfinals, and No. 5 Lincoln Park, 74-63, in the semifinals. The win over LP was the team’s third this season.
Thiero and Frank both eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in career scoring this season.
Tags: Quaker Valley
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