Washington guides Quaker Valley to 11-0 start, No. 1 ranking with greater goals still ahead

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Monday, January 22, 2018 | 4:51 PM


Quaker Valley basketball is looking like a platinum-selling band. The team is holding steady at No. 1, and their leading scorer is climbing the charts with his solo work.

The top-ranked Quakers (11-0, 7-0) entered this week as the only undefeated WPIAL boys team in any classification after wrapping up the first half of Section 2-4A play Friday with a 70-49 win over Beaver, paced by a 23-point night for senior Coletrane Washington.

Washington's night moved his career point total to 1,240, which ranks fourth in school history. Next on the list is 2006 grad Ryan Courneen, who finished with 1,376 points as a Quaker.

The Drexel recruit would reach No. 3 in six games at his current pace of 26.4 points per game, but among those next six games are some of the biggest challenges on the Quakers' schedule. This week alone, the Quakers travel to No. 3 New Castle (Tuesday, after this edition's deadline), host Central Valley on Friday and face Class 3A No. 1 Lincoln Park in the Pittsburgh Classic at Montour on Saturday.

“Lincoln Park's a great team. Vincentian (who QV plays Feb. 3) is very good, and we play in a very good section. Those games will keep us sharp,” Washington said. “We're not taking any games off, no matter who the opponent. Last year, we were tied for the section lead with New Castle, but we lost to Beaver Falls and it cost us the chance to win the section. We're thinking about that.”

Remaining focused on what is to come is exactly the message coach Mike Mastroianni imparted to his team after the win against Beaver, and he's not entirely surprised his team has played its way to the No. 1 spot.

“I would say we anticipated, with the guys we had back being experienced, that we thought we would start out strong. I don't know we expected undefeated, but that's a credit to the way those guys worked in the summer and fall,” Mastroianni said.

“We talked the other night about the second half (of the season) being where you separate the teams. The other teams know you, and your approach is important. One of the things with our veteran guys is that their approach has been to stay within our game each night, and that's good leadership from guys like Coletrane and Ricky (Guss).”

Like any finely tuned group, the Quakers have been much more than just Washington. Juniors Ryan Stowers (16.6 points per game) and Danny Conlan (15.1) both have shown they are reliable scorers, while Washington has averaged 5.5 assists as the team's point guard.

Quaker Valley's balance creates space for all five players on the floor, and that has been the driving force behind QV's success.

“It definitely makes my job a lot easier. Those guys take pressure off me, because any of them can go for 20, 30 points on a given night,” Washington said. “For the defense, it's pick your poison. If they focus on me, it's just easy buckets for Danny, Ryan, Rick, Alex (Skowron), Jackson (Zernich). All of them can score.”

“You have to be built that way to have successful season,” Mastroianni said. “Coletrane fully understands that, and his command of the (point guard) position has been at a high level. He was engaged with it fully in the offseason.”

That said, the Quakers' leader also has taken steps to elevate his game. The preseason talk of Washington becoming more than just a spot-up shooter was prophetic, and his coach likes the way he is putting pressure on defenses.

“He was labeled as more of a stationary shooter, and that's what we asked of him the last couple years,” Mastroianni said. “The way he scores now is getting to the basket, getting to the line. He made 16 (of 18) free throws against Ambridge, but he also had a 10 3-pointer game earlier in the year. When you can score in so many different ways, you put yourself in a good position.”

The defense also has been stout and has led to easy baskets for QV. In no game was that more evident than against No. 2 Ambridge on Jan. 16, when the Quakers took over with a 23-0 run in the second quarter.

“I think it was a statement game for us, as a team, living up to the hype,” Washington said, “but at the same time, coach communicated to us that it was just a regular section game.”

With the power of the junior class emerging behind the senior strength of Washington, Guss and Skowron, the Quakers appear to be built for the long haul. But don't expect any of them, especially Washington, to look beyond the next game because of midseason hype and individual accolades.

“It is kind of cool to see my name go up the (scoring) list, but I can't get caught up in that,” Washington said.

“We made goals at the beginning of the season, and one of them is to not lose a game. Finishing the season undefeated, it would be great coming into the playoffs with the No. 1 seed. That's where our big goals are set.”

Matt Grubba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com

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