Quaker Valley write final chapter in storybook careers

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Sunday, April 10, 2022 | 8:01 AM


The Quaker Valley boys basketball team made a gallant effort in its quest to win a PIAA title, taking a 27-0 record into the state finals.

After capturing section and WPIAL championships, QV finished as the PIAA Class 4A runner-up.

“Like all high school basketball teams in 2020-21, we dealt with a number of covid setbacks that really caused us any opportunity to gain team momentum,” QV coach Mike Mastroianni said. “Any time we started to move forward, we would have a setback and a re-start. Looking back, we played our best basketball at the end of the season as we played eight games over a 12-day span and some of that momentum carried over for us.

“We carried that momentum through the offseason and continued to grow as a team and were really ready and prepared for the start of this season.”

The 2021-22 campaign marked the fourth at the varsity level for two QV team members: standout guards Adou Thiero and Jack Gardinier.

Thiero, who has Division I offers from Pitt, Kentucky, Maryland, Duquesne and UC Santa Barbara, and Gardinier, who has committed to Susquehanna, began their varsity careers as freshmen in 2018-19. The Quakers started off the year with 10 wins in a row.

Thiero, the 2022 TribLive HSSN Boys Basketball Player of the Year, grew from a lanky 6-foot-1 freshman to an all-around polished 6-5 senior.

“Adou is a highly skilled and talented player that did things at a high level in so many areas,” Mastroianni said. “His high-level play overshadowed his strongest attributes of his drive, knowledge of the game and willingness to do whatever it took to get his team to the end.

“Adou will go down as one of the most decorated players in the history of Quaker Valley basketball. His future is full of unlimited potential.”

Gardinier, at 6-foot, was the shortest starter for the Quakers this season, but his day-to-day leadership skills were among the team’s tallest.

“Jack’s competitive drive and work ethic was the backbone of our program,” Mastroianni said. “Jack’s habits were contagious to his teammates, and he set the tone for us every game on both ends of the floor. His leadership in practice carried over into games and his high-level playmaking ability and scoring were big parts of our success, as well as his on-the-ball defense, which was outstanding.”

Thiero and Gardinier wrapped up their careers in QV’s loss March 24 to District 12 titlist Neumann-Goretti in the PIAA championship round.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better career at QV,” Gardinier said. “It was definitely an experience I’ll never forget, and I’m hoping my leadership throughout my four years will leave a legacy for many years to come.”

All in all, the Quakers were 78-17 the past four years and 67-12 in the regular season. They won two section crowns, finished second once and advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals four times.

QV was WPIAL runner-up in 2018-19 and ended up 21-5 overall.

“I enjoyed my time playing for coach Maz and the Quaker Valley community,” Thiero said. “I appreciate all the trust and support they had in us.”

Markus Frank and Wil Dunda joined the team as sophomores in 2019-20.

Again, the Quakers experienced another great start by winning eight of their first nine contests. They tied for first in section play with Blackhawk and closed out the season at 17-6.

Thiero, Gardinier, Frank and Dunda ended up competing together for three years.

“Our four seniors’ combined leadership blended so well together and set the tone on a daily basis for our team,” Mastroianni said. “The willingness and acceptance of our roles was outstanding, and our players’ appreciation of their teammates sacrifices was very rewarding.

“As a unit, not one role was looked at as more important, but all of our roles were viewed as equal in terms of team success.”

The 6-1 Dunda started at guard as a junior and senior. He also was a three-year starter on the QV boys soccer team and will continue his career on the pitch at Geneva College.

“Wil’s never scared of the moment,” Mastroianni said. “His consistent play on both ends of the floor was a big key to our success. Wil made winning plays for us every game, and there isn’t a statistical category to put them in except for teams win championships on all the little things Wil did. Whether it was hitting a big 3, winning every 50-50 ball or defending the top scorer, Wil was truly outstanding.”

Dunda relished his time on both WPIAL championship squads at QV. The boys soccer team also won the PIAA Class 2A title.

He discussed his career on the hardwood that ended in Hershey.

“It has been an incredible experience,” Dunda said. “Day in day out, everyone was locked in and focused on our goals. It was also a great group of people to be around. We always found a way to have fun as a group, coaches included.

“Having to walk away from this incredible program is difficult. So, I want to thank my teammates for pushing me to my best, as well as my coaches for putting me in the best position to succeed. Finally, thanks to the amazing community for backing the team every step of the way.”

After posting a 13-5 mark in the covid-plagued 2020-21 season, the Quakers clicked in a record-setting way in 2021-22. This year’s squad was the first in school history to win 27 consecutive games and was only the second to reach the PIAA finals.

The Quakers were 20-0 in the regular season, 14-0 in section play, and won seven straight postseason games. Overall, they averaged 72.2 points per game and allowed 51.5.

The starting five consisted of the four seniors plus Daniel Bartels, a 6-3 junior forward.

“As an undersized post defender, Dan’s role on our team was not unnoticed,” Mastroianni said. “Dan’s fight and competitive drive enabled us to set up our entire defense and in turn was the foundation of our championship season.

“Dan’s fight every game was contagious, and he was so valuable on both ends of the floor. As a first-year starter, Dan continued to grow during the season and in turn, our team continued to take on the same growth.”

Meanwhile, Thiero and the 6-5 Frank both eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in career scoring in 2021-22. Thiero’s 1,624 points rank third in team history. Frank’s 1,462 points are fifth-most.

Thiero averaged 23.3 points per game this year while leading the squad in rebounds (10.3 per game), assists, blocks and steals and had several big games in his career.

Two were his 44-point performance Jan. 4 against Hopewell that temporarily snapped the school’s single-game scoring record of 43 established by Grant Derner in 1980, along with his 40-point effort Jan. 29 against Highlands in the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Showcase.

While playing with a fractured thumb, Thiero accounted for 31 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocks to lead QV to a 61-52 win March 3 against Montour in the WPIAL finals.

The WPIAL championship was the Quakers’ second and first since 1997. It was the third for Mastroianni, who won with QV in 1997 and at Bethel Park in 2007.

Frank finished with 760 points this season, breaking Rich Woznicki’s record of 691 set 41 years ago. Frank averaged a team-high 28.1 points per game, shot 68% while scoring mostly in the paint and grabbed 10 rebounds per game.

He is receiving NCAA Division II interest from Shippensburg, Clarion and a number of other schools.

“Markus will go down as one of the best, if not the best scorer in Quaker Valley basketball history, holding both the individual one-game scoring record and the highest individual season scoring record,” Mastroianni said. “He had one of the all-time best individual seasons not only in Quaker Valley history but the entire WPIAL. But what we will miss most about Markus is his positive personality and his outstanding representation of our program.”

Frank broke Thiero’s scoring record in the WPIAL quarterfinals with a 45-point effort at home against Deer Lakes.

“I accomplished my individual goal(s),” Frank said, “so overall I think it went really well this season.”

Another impressive individual performance this year was turned in by Gardinier, the team’s leading free-throw shooter, in the PIAA second round, as he tossed in a career-high 36 points to spark the Quakers past Belle Vernon, 86-75.

Thiero, Frank and Gardinier recently were selected to play for the Class 4A Gold team, coached by Mastroianni, in the Roundball Classic all-star event May 19-21 at Geneva College.

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