Quaker Valley, Sewickley Academy girls basketball teams gear up for playoffs

Friday, January 31, 2020 | 5:14 PM

The Quaker Valley and Sewickley Academy girls basketball teams can breathe a small sigh of relief.

Both programs secured WPIAL playoff berths with plenty of time to spare.

Last season, the Quakers’ postseason hopes came down to their Section 2-4A finale against Ambridge. They pulled out a 45-43 victory to qualify for the playoffs. They don’t have to sweat it out this year after going 6-3 in their first nine section games.

“We’re so excited. I think it’s so cool we clinched a playoff spot so early,” Quaker Valley junior point guard Bailey Garbee said. “It was so stressful trying to get it in the last game. Now, we can play our hardest without the stress of having to make playoffs.”

Quaker Valley hopes to keep improving its playoff seeding with three section games to go. With some help, the Quakers could finish second.

“It’s a great feeling to have playoffs locked up, but I wouldn’t say all the pressure is off,” Quaker Valley coach Tom Demko said. “We want to continue to play well down the stretch. We had a few games at the end last year where we played well and got some wins heading into the postseason, and that gave us the momentum we needed.”

Junior guard Corinne Washington and Garbee are the top two scorers. However, the Quakers are seeing positives from the entire lineup.

“It’s great. It’s nice to have everyone scoring and contributing. That’s the only way we can score 60 or 70 points in a game,” Garbee said. “I think everyone has stepped up in different ways, too, whether on defense or rebounding, which is nice.”

Demko lauded seniors Maura Conlin and Amy Wilson for their all-around play.

“We have two seniors in the starting lineup, which is huge,” he said. “Their leadership is another thing helping us.”

Like Quaker Valley, Sewickley Academy is a young team. While the Panthers don’t have any seniors, they have an experienced core group of starters in juniors Kamryn Lightcap, Bre Warner, J.J. Jardini and Mia DelVecchio and sophomore Desirae Nance.

“It’s been really nice having five returning starters,” Lightcap said. “We’re more mature this year, and we know how to handle more situations. We’re trying to help the younger girls adapt to high school basketball, too.”

Sewickley Academy can finish no higher than third in Section 1-A. The team was 6-4 through its first 10 section games.

“We’re really excited to be in the playoffs. It’s a long season, and our goal was to get better every day and every game. I feel like we’ve done that,” Sewickley Academy coach Mark Gaither said. “We’re starting to play some real good basketball. We’re getting better each game, and we’ve made a lot of progress. When you take over a program and start over, there’s some growing pains along the way. It’s been a big learning curve, but we’re getting there.”

A challenging nonsection schedule hasn’t helped the team in the win-loss column, but they gained valuable experience.

“Our record isn’t the best, but I think we’ve challenged ourselves with our schedule. We learned a lot from that and it’ll help us for playoffs,” Lightcap said. “We’ve had hard games against some good teams. Hopefully, that’ll pay off.”

The Panthers want to generate momentum going into the postseason, too.

“We’re not done yet. We have to be focused,” Gaither said. “We want to finish strong. We’ll find out our fate and go from there.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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