With new coach, revamped lineup, Quaker Valley girls basketball looks for smooth transition

Sunday, December 12, 2021 | 9:21 PM

Last season, the Quaker Valley girls basketball team, seeded No. 2, qualified for the WPIAL finals for the first time before losing to No. 1 Beaver, 44-29.

Will the Quakers be able to take that next step forward in 2021-22?

Well, first things first.

Quaker Valley is aiming for a fourth consecutive postseason appearance in coach Ken Johns’ rookie year as floor boss.

Johns was hired in July to take over for Tom Demko, who resigned after three years in charge.

“I’m very excited to be coaching this group of players and to be coaching at Quaker Valley,” Johns said. “There is such a strong support system for both academics and athletics at Quaker Valley, and it is wonderful to be a part of it.

“I was asked during the interview process why I wanted the job and my answer was that we have such a strong athletic program with sustained success in sports like boys basketball, boys soccer, boys and girls cross country and track, and recently wrestling — the list goes on — so I asked, ‘Why not girls basketball?’”

Johns actually is a familiar face in QV circles.

A 1987 Quaker Valley graduate, Johns played three sports in high school and went on to run track at Ohio. He was inducted into the Quaker Valley Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.

His son, K.C., a 2020 Quaker Valley grad, played basketball in high school and currently is a member of the Allegheny men’s basketball team. Johns’ oldest daughter Lily is a former QV hoopster.

His youngest daughter Nora is a 5-foot-7 junior point guard on QV’s girls hoops team. Nora won the PIAA gold medal in the 300-meter hurdles last spring.

Johns was involved with Quaker Valley youth basketball for eight years and spent several years coaching in the middle school program.

The QV girls basketball team was tall and talented in 2020-21, featuring two Division players and 1,000-point career scorers in Corrine Washington (Boston University), an all-state selection, and Bailey Garbee (American University).

The starting lineup in the championship game last year consisted of four seniors — Washington, Garbee, guard Lily Johns, forward Claire Kuzma — and Nora Johns. Washington, Garbee and Kuzma were listed as 5-11 forwards.

“We do not have a lot of returning experience at the varsity level, so we’re looking to build some experience quickly,” coach Johns said. “Roles evolve each year and, having graduated four starters from last year’s team, this is a big year for us on that front. It will take a little time early in the season to establish those new roles and for the players to understand and embrace them.

“I have been very pleased with the attitude and effort so far. The concepts we’re running are brand new to most of the players, and it will take a little time for those to become second nature. My expectations are that we get better every time we get in the gym, whether that be practice or a game. Working to get better is something we talk about every day.”

Nora Johns, a junior point guard, is joined in the backcourt by senior Allie Ponzo and junior Maria Helkowski. Both are 5-6.

Seniors Amelia Herrman, who stands 5-10, and Lauren Blackmer, at 5-11, along with 5-9 junior Shannon Von Kaenel, 5-7 junior Silvia Carrasco-Almanzar and 5-11 sophomore Annica Kagle will be stationed in the QV frontcourt.

“Amelia Herrmann and Lauren Blackmer started a few games last year and did see some playing time on a good team,” said their coach.

All of the above, as well as 5-4 sophomore guard Madison Chapman, are expected to contribute regularly for the Quakers in 2021-22.

“This is a tough and competitive group that is used to being around winning,” coach Johns said. “With the recent success of the team and with our upperclassman practicing against that team daily the past few years, they have an understanding of what it takes to play at that level. They all have expectations of competing and building on the recent success.”

Quaker Valley reeled off 12 wins in its final 14 games last season and ended up 15-5 overall. Three losses were to section rival Beaver.

The Quakers are members of Section 2-4A, along with Ambridge, Beaver, Blackhawk, Central Valley, Hopewell, Montour and New Castle.

“When I look at the other teams in our section with such excellent coaches and good players year in and year out, I asked, ‘Why not Quaker Valley?’” coach Johns said. “I think we have an opportunity to build a program that has sustained success. I see no reason why that cannot happen and, while it may take a little while to build, I am excited at the prospect of getting it started this year with this group.”


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