After winning state football title last fall, Aliquippa adds PIAA boys basketball championship

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Friday, March 22, 2024 | 4:15 PM


HERSHEY – Aliquippa finished off a rare PIAA double-double Friday by winning state football and basketball titles in the same school year. But on a roster full of two-sport athletes, this latest celebration was thanks in large part to a sophomore who has focused on only one.

Josh Pratt scored a game-high 36 points and Aliquippa avoided another state runner-up finish with a 74-52 victory over Holy Cross in the PIAA Class 2A boys basketball final at Giant Center. The Quips lost here the past two years, but this time ran away with a title.

What was the difference?

“We’ve got a scorer,” said senior Quentin Goode, a point guard and quarterback, who was quick to credit Pratt. “As you can see from the past two years, we couldn’t really make shots.”

The Quips scored only 44 points in last year’s final and just 58 the year before. That offense got a big boost when Pratt, a talented 6-foot-1 guard, transferred home to Aliquippa after spending his freshman year at Lincoln Park.

Pratt alone had 20 points in the first half Friday, and he fueled a 21-2 run that let the Quips pull away. Overall, he went 14 for 19 shooting with three 3-pointers.

“We know going into games, especially the big games, when Josh is locked in, he’s a big-time scorer,” Aliquippa coach Nick Lackovich said. “He can score in a variety of ways. He holds us up. When we need a big shot, he gets it.”

Having a player who prioritizes basketball was key.

Four of Aliquippa’s five starters and almost everybody on the bench also played football. But while they were on the turf, Pratt was in the gym preparing for basketball season.

“They definitely handled business in football,” Pratt said. “After they won, they wanted to make history, winning football and basketball. … I was just here to help them complete the job.”

Aliquippa (25-5) became the second WPIAL school to accomplish the PIAA double-double, joining the Terrelle Pryor-led Jeannette football and basketball teams of 2007-08. Only three other PIAA schools have achieved the feat: General McLane (2006-07), Steelton-Highspire (2007-08) and Archbishop Wood (2016-17).

The Quips came close before, most recently two years ago, when they won the state football title but lost in the state basketball finals. In 1988-89 and 2015-16, they won the state in basketball but lost in football.

“This was a long time coming,” said senior Cameron Lindsey, who added 10 points and eight rebounds. “It took three hard years, but this year we were locked in from the moment we won (the semifinal) on Tuesday. It finally paid off.”

The PIAA basketball title was the team’s sixth, following those won in 1949, ’98, ’94, ’97 and 2016.

District 2 champion Holy Cross (24-4) was making only its second appearance in the finals. The school from near Scranton lost to Beaver Falls, 69-63, in the 2013 Class 3A final.

Mike Hughes led the Crusaders with 13 points, Mario Matrone had 11, and C.J. Thompson and Adam Badyrka added 10 apiece. But the team committed 21 turnovers, including 13 steals by Aliquippa’s defense.

The Quips’ quickness and strength caused them trouble.

“They were extremely fast, and film doesn’t show that,” Holy Cross coach Al Callejas Jr. said. “Where some of our guards can get by guys, we couldn’t get by today. And if we did, one little nudge would throw us off our path.”

That showed most in an eight-minute first-half stretch when the Crusaders were outscored 21-2. The Aliquippa run turned a 7-7 tie into a 28-9 lead. The run included 10 points from Pratt.

The Quips said they played some of their best basketball of the season in the first half. They out-rebounded Holy Cross, 15-5, forced eight turnovers and made more than twice as many shots (19 to 8) as their opponents.

All combined, that led to a 41-21 halftime lead.

“The way we rotated (on defense) was everything,” Goode said. “When they got an open shot, somebody was there.”

Aliquippa’s lead grew to 61-36 after three quarters.

Holy Cross deployed a box-and-one defense early in Friday’s game, but rather than shadow Pratt, Callejas chose to chase Lindsey. The idea, he said, was to limit Lindsey’s rebounds and points in the paint.

“We were trying to confuse them and give them something they hadn’t seen,” Callejas said. “I know the previous game, Fort Cherry played a box on Pratt. I know he had nine 3s in the district championship game, but we were willing to try to match up with them out of the box. We kind of lost everybody.”

Aliquippa shot 63% from the field in the first half, boosted by a 9-for-13 effort by Pratt. Pratt made 14 of 19 shots overall, including 3 for 4 from 3-point range, and added a team-high five steals.

Pratt was on the bench a year ago for a Lincoln Park team that won the Class 4A title. He attended the charter school for only one year before returning to Aliquippa.

“He’s one of us,” Lackovich said. “He had no business at Lincoln Park, for a variety of reasons.”

This was the second time Pratt topped 30 points in this postseason. He had 33 in the WPIAL finals. He’s happy to remain focused on basketball alone, even if his teammates have other ideas.

“They want me to come play football,” Pratt said. “I don’t know if I’m going to do it. I’ll think about it.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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