Mike Mastroianni is quick to praise his group of seniors, a group that has led the to a 24-4 record.
On Saturday, they lived up to his praise. Quaker Valley upset heavily favored Monessen 62-60 at . RJ West believes its because the team trusts each other and every player plays an equal role.
“We stick together, and we go hard all of the time,” said West, “we don’t get our heads down because we are all good. It’s not all one person. We can all step up at different times.”
Seniors Sam and Joe Peduto had 16 and 13 points, respectively, and repeatedly capitalized on Monessen’s failure to get back on defense after made baskets.
Steven Emch also chipped in 16 points including three three-pointers and a steal with a minute left in the game that was a critical exchange for the Quakers.
West looked out of his normal rhythm through the first three quarters, dogged by tenacious Monessen defenders. He found his stride in time to hit two key three pointers in the fourth quarter before slicing through the defense with 3 seconds remaining for the winning basket. West finished with eight points, all in the fourth quarter.
Junior Burke Moser added 9 points and 9 rebounds in what was a characteristically balanced QV attack. Moser also hit a deep three with four minutes left that pulled the Quakers to within one and set up the frantic finish.
The game started at a quick pace and both teams hit shots early to keep the game close. QV trailed 17-15 after the first quarter, but rallied from seven down in the second to take a 1-point lead into the half at 31-30. The third quarter belonged to Monessen, and they built a 5-point lead with two seconds left in the quarter. That is when Chavas Rawlins, a Division I QB recruit, hit a shot from the free throw line – 65 feet – to put the Greyhounds up 8 points going into the fourth quarter.
Mastroianni believes that only brought out the best in his team.
“It’s in our DNA. Usually at the end when we have to make plays, that is when we are best. We knew we were going to have to play from behind late. We didn’t expect a full court shot, but it just shows the resiliency of this team.”
With just over one minute to play and Monessen leading 60-59, there was a jump ball between Sam Peduto and Tyler Young. It appeared that Young lost his temper and slammed Peduto to the ground after the jump ball.
The refs, after conferring, decided not to call the technical and awarded Monessen the ball on alternate possession. It appeared that QV would have to foul to get the ball back.
That is when Emch changed the game. As Monessen point guard Jalen Madison crossed half court, Emch picked him clean and went the other direction.
“Ever since my freshman year, Coach Maz has been telling me not to go for steals, but I saw him going for the cross, and I thought I could get it.”
As Emch raced for the go-ahead lay-up, Madison hustled back and tackled Emch before he could go up for the shot. The resulting intentional foul resulted in two foul shots and QV possession. After Emch sunk one of two foul shots, QV had the ball with 49 seconds to play tied at 60. That is when QV used their big men to pull Monessen away from the basket.
Moser, QV’s leading rebounder, milked the clock for more than 40 seconds handling the ball at the top of the key. When Moser passed the ball to West with 7 seconds left, West knew what to do with it. After jabbing right, West drove left and beat the help defense to the hoop, scoring the game winner with 3 seconds remaining.
This time the full court shot didn’t fall for Monessen, and Quaker Valley advanced to the Western PIAA Final on Wednesday against section rival Beaver Falls.
The Quakers have lost twice to the Tigers this season, but Coach Mastoianni believes that they are ready this time.
“When you play in a section with Aliquippa and Beaver Falls, it makes you tougher. Our kids are ready for this.”