It's been another great year in the WPIAL basketball playoffs; we now feature teams and players who have made a great showing. In these photos, we see Imani Christian freshman Cali Konek. Konek is known for setting a record in the regular season for the highest scoring average (45.9 points per game) in WPIAL history. (The score versus Quigley Catholic was Quigley 82, Imani 54.)
Quigley Catholic has had a solid run in Section 1-A with an unbeaten record against section rivals for more than five years. But when the Spartans have ventured into the WPIAL tournament, they have had tough sledding.
Particularly when the opponent has been either Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic or Vincentian Academy.
That familiar scenario plays out again at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Ambridge when the Spartans meet the Royals. The winner advances to the WPIAL Class A championship game at 11 a.m. Saturday at the University of Pittsburgh's Petersen Events Center against the winner of the other semifinal between North Catholic and Cornell. That game is being played at 8 p.m. Tuesday at North Allegheny.
Both Vincentian and Quigley have played a solid schedule against out-of-section opponents. The 19-5 Spartans' losses have come against Class AAA Ambridge, Class AA Riverside, Class AAAA Hempfield, District 10 power West Middlesex and Class AAA Montour. Since the 50-46 loss to Montour on Dec. 29, the Spartans have won 15 games in a row, the latest a 49-42 victory over Winchester Thurston in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals.
Much had been made of the first-round WPIAL Class A tournament game between Quigley Catholic and Imani Christian this past Saturday at North Allegheny High School and their respective standouts, the Spartans' Gabbie Smith and the Saints' Cali Konek.
It didn't take long for this game to turn into the rout. Fueled by three baskets from Smith, the Spartans went on an 11-0 run at the outset of a second quarter to earn an 82-54 victory and a berth in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals on Saturday against Winchester Thurston.
Konek, the WPIAL's leading scorer at 45.9 points a game, scored 35 points. But Smith set a WPIAL record by scoring 47 points and lifting her team's overall record to 18-5.
"Everybody built this up to be Gabbie against Cali, but we didn't look at it that way," said Quigley coach Bill DelTondo.
Since Feb. 3, 2011, the Quigley Catholic High girls basketball team hasn't lost a game to a section opponent. The Spartans hope to carry the momentum of five consecutive unbeaten seasons against section rivals and a 16-5 overall record into today's regular-season finale at Ringgold and into the WPIAL Class A tournament that begins later this week.
The last team to beat Quigley in a section game was Rochester by a 51-38 margin back in 2011. Since then, the Spartans have won 58 games in a row against Section 1-A rivals.
Gabbie Smith has been the Spartans' prolific scoring leader. Through 19 games, she was averaging 29.4 points a game, second only to Imani Christian's Cali Konek, who is averaging 46 points a game.
While averaging 57.6 points a game, the Spartans have been solid on defense, too, giving up 43.2 points a game.
At first glance, it would appear the Quigley Catholic High girls basketball team is having an average season with an overall record of 9-5. But what's that saying about first impressions?
All five of the Spartans setbacks have come against non-section opponents as they lead the WPIAL's Section 1-A with a record of 5-0.
Quigley's setbacks have come against Ambridge, Riverside, Hempfield, Montour and West Middlesex. The first four teams play in higher classifications in the WPIAL. West Middlesex is a consistently strong team in Erie-based District 10.
Since a 50-46 loss to Montour, the Spartans have won five games in a row, the latest a 55-39 victory this past Monday against host Aliquippa.