Aliquippa beats Fort Cherry, gets another shot at a football-basketball WPIAL double

Tuesday, February 27, 2024 | 10:43 PM

For Aliquippa’s senior class, pulling double duty for the second consecutive year was at the front their minds.

Winning a WPIAL football and boys basketball title in the 2022-2023 school year was already difficult enough, but the Quips will look to repeat the feat yet again after downing Fort Cherry in a Class 2A semifinal battle, 55-36, on Tuesday night.

“That was a goal,” senior Cam Lindsey said. “That’s another step in the journey of becoming state champs.”

The victory for the top-seeded team in the classification sets up a championship bout with No. 2 Greensburg Central Catholic at Pitt’s Petersen Events Center at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“It never gets old,” coach Nick Lackovich said about returning to the Pete.

While the senior class wrote its name all over the victory, sophomore Josh Pratt led the charge for the Quips (20-5) with a game-high 16 points, including a triple early in the third quarter.

“You could be watching the game, and all of a sudden in the second quarter he has 16 points and you’re like, ‘Wow, where’d that come from?’ He’s a gifted scorer,” Lackovich said.

Lindsey’s instrumental presence in the victory allowed him to add 14 points as he continually wreaked havoc in the low post while grabbing rebounds and finishing at the cup.

“Lindsey’s the difference in the ballgame,” Fort Cherry coach Eugene Briggs said. “There’s not much you can do about that. He just goes and gets the ball. When you’re that athletic, the only way to counter it is with someone like him.”

With Lindsey thriving down low, there was no other way for Aliquippa to take care of business than with grit as the Quips dominated the glass.

“That’s something we need to do every game — just dominating the boards and forcing one shot opportunity for other teams,” Lindsey said.

Pratt followed up a 24-point performance in the quarterfinals by commencing the scoring for the Quips against the Rangers with a baseline drive and finish.

Fort Cherry (19-6) responded accordingly with a pair of triples from Derek Errett and Jack Kitzmiller.

Errett paced the offense for the Rangers with a team-high 14 points.

“Not too many people were able to break Aliquippa defenders down. He was able to do that,” Briggs said.

Even with Errett giving everything he could, Aliquippa’s offense continued to work driving baseline, with Qalil Goode knocking down a jumper and Lindsey sinking a pair of reverse layups from underneath the hoop.

“Attacking the rim and going up strong is what the coaches have been telling me, and it helps in the long run.” Lindsey said about his scoring ability in the low post.

With the Quips starting to lengthen their lead, the Rangers didn’t help their cause with a plethora of turnovers. That was emphasized by a Goode inbounds steal and feed to Pratt as he attacked and scored at the rim to push the Quips’ lead to 23-13.

“Just not being used to the quickness,” Briggs said about the turnovers. “The turnovers were them, not us.”

After the Quips took a 27-16 lead into the half, they carried momentum into the third quarter as Goode added another rebound and score on a putback, which spotlighted the Quips’ work on the offensive glass.

“Coming into this game, we really felt like we could dominate the boards and we went out and did it,” Lackovich said.

Attempting to stay alive, Blake Sweder buried a 3-pointer from the left wing midway through the third on the way to nine points for the sophomore. With that triple, the Rangers trailed by just 10, but it was the closest they came the rest of the way.

Controlling the clock with long possessions, rebounding and execution at the foul line, Aliquippa closed out another convincing win to storm through the first three rounds of the bracket.

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