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District 1 5A: Maloney's wild day ends with Sun Valley win

02/18/2022, 10:45pm EST
By Joseph Santoliquito

Joseph Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)

For someone who had about 90 minutes of sleep over two days, Sun Valley coach Steve Maloney looked pretty good Friday night. He was riding an adrenaline rush after his wife Amanda gave birth to their second child, a 6-pound, 14-ounce baby girl named Raelynn at 3:40 a.m. Friday morning.

Maloney wanted to stay by his wife’s side and had no intention of coaching the Vanguards on Fright night in their opening-round PIAA District 1 Class 5A playoff game against visiting Holy Ghost Prep and legendary coach Tony Chapman.

But in a scene stolen straight out of Rocky II, Amanda whispered to Steve at bedside, “Just win, and come back at 9:30.”

That’s what Sun Valley did, 54-45, behind some clutch shooting from junior Chris Kwaidah, dropping in a game-high 17, and some big plays by Todd Harper, Noah Griffin and Nick Gianakopoulos, one the Sun Valley’s two seniors.

Sun Valley head coach Steve Maloney (center), with juniors Chris Kwaidah (L) and Todd Harper after the Vanguards beat Holy Ghost Prep in the first round of the District 1 5A playoffs on Feb. 18, 2022. (Photo: Joseph Santoliquito/CoBL)

Seeded No. 8, the Vanguards (15-8) now advance to play District 1 5A No. 1 seed Radnor (21-3) on Tuesday, while No. 9 Holy Ghost (13-10) saw its season end, despite 16 points from Ryan Sylvester and nine from Mel Lindsey.

If Sun Valley upsets the Raptors, it qualifies for the state tournament.

“My kids were great and my coaching staff did a phenomenal job this whole week,” Maloney said. “I think I’m working off an hour-and-a-half of sleep over the last two days. It’s been a rollercoaster this week. I have assistant coaches who have been with me for five years now, including two state (playoff) berths.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of them. My assistant coaches got the kids ready. Coach Chapman has been around for a while, and once the seeds came out, we knew we were in for a battle. We had to be disciplined and ready to go.”

Sun Valley was coming off a COVID-19 truncated 2-8 season last year, and the Vanguards were coming off a crushing 51-25 loss to Downingtown West last Saturday in the Ches-Mont League semifinals.

“But those losses last year and the loss to Downingtown West taught a number of things,” Maloney said. “Most of my guys have been with me for three years now, and we know what we can accomplish. Our goals were the district playoffs and the Ches-Mont final four.

“I think I’ll remember this date forever. I can’t tell you how much her love and support helped me. I now have two girls at home and I have my 17 boys here. They were supportive all week. They were texting me all week. My wife is the boss. She had the baby this morning, and she’s a basketball coach in the summer. She let me go and said, ‘Go win a game, and I’ll see you at 9:30.’”

The Vanguards were up, 40-30, with 6:06 left to play, when Holy Ghost Prep surged back to close within 40-38 with 4:07 left. With 1:27 left, that narrow gap shrunk down to 44-43.

“We had a lot of makeable shots that we didn’t make,” Chapman said. “We never had the opportunity to have the ball with the lead. They made their free throws and (Kwaidah) was outstanding down the stretch.”

In the final :49 seconds, Kwaidah responded with six-straight free throws and Harper added a pair in the final 20 seconds to provide some cushion en route to the victory.

“We had to stick with our assistant coaches in practice this week and we knew what coach was going through,” Kwaidah said. “Our concerns were getting back on defense and I felt focused and it led to the big game tonight.”

When it got hectic, the young Vanguards were able to regain their composure in the closing minutes.

“We wanted to give coach a really big gift, and tonight we pulled through and got the ‘W’ for him,” Harper said. “Coach hasn’t slept this week, but coach never sleeps. We didn’t look good at all against Downingtown West. Every night, we work hard and we don’t [take] days off.

“When it got tense, we went back to our game plan and finish strong. We fought through the double-teams and got rid of the ball before the double-teams came. We live on to play again.”

Maloney bolted after addressing his team and being greeted by well-wishers. He looked good for someone who had not gotten a lot of sleep in two days.

By Quarter

Holy Ghost Prep: 7 | 9 | 11 | 18 || 45

Sun Valley: 10 | 11 | 15 | 18 || 54


Holy Ghost Prep: Ryan Sylvester 16, Mel Lindsey 9, Shane Reilly 8, Dylan Shead 5, Seamus McDermott 3, Ian Hendrix 3, Mark Tomasetti 1

Sun Valley: Chris Kwaidah 17, Bucky Grayston 10, Todd Harper 9, Noah Griffin 9, Nick Gianakopoulos 7, Evan Richardson 2

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who began writing for CoBL in 2021 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here.


Boys District 1 5A First Round
8) Sun Valley def. 9) Holy Ghost Prep, 54-45
12) Chichester def. 5) Penncrest, 50-43
7) Marple Newtown def. 10) West Chester Rustin, 57-47
6) Bishop Shanahan def. 11) Upper Merion, 41-38

Boys District 1 5A Second Round
Weds., Feb. 23 @ Higher Seeds

1) Radnor vs. 8) Sun Valley
4) Upper Moreland vs. 12) Chichester
2) Chester vs. 7) Marple Newtown
3) Phoenixville vs. 6) Bishop Shanahan

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