Feb. 23—For most WPIAL basketball teams, the final week or so of the regular season is a sprint to the finish with the hopes of a section title or at least a district playoff berth waiting at the finish line.
For Quaker Valley, the end of this crazy 2021 season has been a marathon with eight games on the final 10 days of the schedule.
It may be a long, tough stretch with six of those games against teams that are or were ranked in the HSSN top 5 this season, but the Quakers seem to be enjoying it according to head coach Mike Mastroianni.
"The grind is actually helping the Quakers and is something we really needed," he said.
Leading the way on most nights is talented junior guard Adou Thiero.
Thiero ended up with 113 points this past week in five games, four of them wins, for an average of over 22 points per game.
The Quakers' five-day work week began with a 67-64 loss to Lincoln Park. Two days later, QV avenged that home loss with a 72-64 win over the Leopards in Midland. Thiero scored 46 points in the two games, including 26 points in the victory.
"I think what stood out for me in both games was not necessarily Adou's scoring, but more on how he managed the games and controlled the pace for us," Mastroianni said. "He is an outstanding scorer, and we needed him to score, but his game management was even more important to our team success."
In between the Lincoln Park games on Wednesday, the Quakers beat Beaver, 64-52, as Thiero led all scorers with 32 points.
"We actually were coming off of a close lose and had an away game in a difficult place to play," Mastroianni said. "He made a number of tough finishes in a game where we needed them all."
The week ended with two impressive performances by Quaker Valley.
On Friday, QV crushed section foe Central Valley, 62-33. The Warriors had entered the game with a 10-2 overall record. Then on Saturday in a nonsection contest, Quaker Valley defeated visiting Mt. Lebanon, 63-54.
"In a very demanding week for us, he found himself in the second half of both of those wins and made winning plays," Mastroianni said. "His play on both ends of the floor against Mt. Lebanon was the key to our second half come back and win."
Thiero made a splash on the QV program two years ago as a diminutive 5-foot-10 point guard who played a key role in the Quakers' 21-5 season in which they reached the WPIAL Class 4A finals, only to lose to New Castle.
He continues to grow physically, now close to 6-2. With his growth in height, Thiero's game is growing as well.
"The physical maturation has made him a better scorer because he score in more ways," Mastroianni said. "He is way more than just a high level 3-point shooter. He gets to the rim and uses the rim efficiently and is a great finisher. He has an outstanding knack for the ball coming off of the rim and rebounds well."
Thiero certainly isn't flying solo on the score sheet. While the Quaker are enjoying great contributions from several players this season, joining Thiero on a nightly basis among the scoring leaders is junior Markus Frank.
"I think the both of them have played together for so long that they have a good understanding of each other on the court," Mastroianni said. "Markus is the healthiest he has been all season and has been playing well the last few weeks and taking pressure off of Adou."
Quaker Valley looks to finish strong with three more section games this week, at Montour on Monday, at Hopewell on Tuesday and home to Central Valley on Wednesday.
"With all of the starts and stops, we really never felt like the season started for us and we were in the first week of February," Mastroianni said. "It has put us in more situations and our roles are more defined and our continuity is so much better."
2021 Trib HSSN Player of the Week
Week 5 — Brayden Reynolds, Chartiers Valley
Week 4 — Damon Astorino, Ambridge
Week 3 — Jackson LaRocka, Burgettstown
Week 2 — Vinnie Cugini, Aquinas Academy
Week 1 — Jackson Juzang, Winchester Thurston