Aliquippa again finishes as PIAA runner-up after loss to Lancaster Mennonite
Friday, March 24, 2023 | 4:29 PM
HERSHEY — Trips to the so-called “Sweetest Place on Earth” have become bittersweet for Aliquippa.
The Quips lost in the state basketball finals for the second year in a row Friday, this time doomed by a poor shooting night in a 60-44 loss to Lancaster Mennonite in a PIAA Class 2A final at Giant Center.
The team shot just 26%.
Here in Hershey a year ago, the Aliquippa players shed tears after a one-sided loss to Devon Prep. This time, they were competitive into the fourth quarter against a different opponent, but again felt a familiar heartache.
“I’m not so sure that this doesn’t hurt more, because this was definitely, we felt, a winnable game,” coach Nick Lackovich said. “Last year when we came here, when I got on that bus in Aliquippa, I knew that it was going to be an uphill battle. This year, I felt a little different.”
Yet Aliquippa led only once — 28-27 — and for only 20 seconds in the third quarter, before the District 3 champions answered with 10 consecutive points to reclaim the lead.
Lancaster Mennonite shot 53% from the field, led by senior Camden Hurst, who scored 15 of his game-high 23 points in the second half. The 6-foot-2 guard missed most of his season with a broken hand, but went 9 for 14 shooting and made three 3s.
Hurst also had 10 rebounds. He and 6-7 center David Weaver each had double-doubles. Weaver had 15 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks.
The Quips couldn’t keep pace.
“It hurts,” Quips junior Cameron Lindsey said. “It’s not easy to get here in the first place. Let alone two times and still coming up short. It hurts a lot.”
Remarkably, Aliquippa has played in consecutive football and consecutive basketball finals over the past two school years. However, this was the Quips’ third state championship loss in the past 13 months, if you include the football finals from December.
“If you’re the Steelers, your goal is to win the Super Bowl. If you’re the Pirates, it’s to win a World Series,” Lackovich said. “At Aliquippa, it’s to win states. Fortunately, we have athletes that allow us to feel that way.”
The state title was the first for Lancaster Mennonite (21-8). Aliquippa (24-7) was chasing its sixth.
Weaver’s tall presence in the middle of Lancaster Mennonite’s defense was responsible for some of the Quips’ missed shots, but Lackovich blamed shot selection for the others. The team made only 17 of 65 attempts, including 3-for-14 in the first quarter and 3-for-21 in the fourth.
“Every shot was a hard shot, and it didn’t need to be that way,” Lackovich said. “It just comes down to poor shot selection.”
Aliquippa senior Donovan Walker scored a team-high 14 points, and Lindsey added 12 points and 17 rebounds before both fouled out in the fourth quarter. Junior guard Quentin Goode added 10 points.
The Quips started the game by missing 10 of its first 11 shots. Overall, they finished 3 for 19 from 3-point range, and also missed 7 of 14 free throws.
Lancaster Mennonite led 15-9 after one quarter, 25-22 at half and 41-34 after three.
“If we’re just saying one thing, shot selection really killed us,” Lackovich said. “A close second was rebounding. We haven’t rebounded like we have been.”
The Quips were outrebounded 39-34. They did grab 19 offensive rebounds, but turned those into only nine second-chance points.
Walker is the only senior starter, so a return next winter isn’t out of the question.
“Sometimes you stub your toe and you’ve got to bounce back from it,” Lackovich said. “Now, hopefully these guys will put in a little more work in the offseason. If they do, I don’t see why we couldn’t be right back here again.”
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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