Aliquippa rallies past Sharon in PIAA 1st round

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Saturday, March 7, 2020 | 8:35 PM


Basketball is a game of adjustments. Usually, the team that makes the right in-game adjustments will be the team that ends the game victorious.

That was the case for Aliquippa, which took a 14-point first-quarter deficit and executed the comeback against Sharon on Saturday. The Quips came out with a 79-72 victory at Farrell’s E.J. McCluskey Gymnasium in the first round of the PIAA Class 3A tournament.

After giving up 45 first-half points to Sharon, Aliquippa held the District 10 runner-up to just 27 points in the second half. Quips’ coach Dwight Hines was the first to deflect the credit for the adjustments to the players on the court.

“It wasn’t even us coaches trying to make any adjustments,” Hines said. “It was the team believing that they could lock down and challenge themselves. We called timeout, they huddled up themselves, got themselves together, and they went out there and pretty much dominated — chipping back with each and every possession.”

Sharon (16-11) began the game on a hot streak, hitting on 4 of 5 3-point attempts in the first quarter. Camren Atallah had 11 first-quarter points for the Tigers, including a trio of 3s. The Tigers led 26-14 at the end of the first.

The early perimeter success led to openings in the paint. Sharon point guard Michael Calloway took advantage, converting on three “and-one” baskets in the second quarter. The transition play of Calloway and company led to a 45-38 lead at halftime.

“We came out playing on a broken floor and getting easy baskets,” Sharon coach Zach Sarver said. “Mike (Calloway) was key for us, getting into the lane and making good decisions on when to drive when to shoot and when to pass, and that’s tough to do against these guys.”

While Sharon led by eight at the break, a 9-0 run late in the first half helped switch the momentum to the Quips. After Calloway’s third and-one, Aliquippa cut an 11-point deficit down to two with a minute to play in the quarter. The run was capped with back-to-back steals that turned to transition dunks by Michael Dawkins and Zuriah Fisher on the other end.

The momentum carried over into the second half, where the Quips turned up the defensive intensity and got more of their own transition buckets.

That’s when Fisher took over, scoring 16 of his game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter.

“He was resilient out there,” Hines said. “He played with poise, put the team on his back, and he carried the load. He wanted the ball. He wanted to be dominant. He knew that this is his last go-around as a senior, and as a senior, big time players step up in big time games.”

Fisher also had 14 rebounds to lead Aliquippa. Dawkins followed with 18 points, and Dewayne Revis tallied 12. Calloway led Sharon with 19 points, and Atallah followed with 15. Mer’Quan Peterson and Otis Driver each reached double figures off of the bench for the Tigers.

The Quips’ defense forced 21 turnovers while committing only nine.

“I think they wore us down physically,” Sarver said. “It’s tough, when the sub in, the guys are all the same skillset. They all guard well and are physical. When they are running through all of those guys that are playing defense, and then that’s when Fisher takes over in the second half when the guys are a bit gassed and the physicality wears you down.”

Hines agreed the physicality of his team’s defense played a big role in the outcome.

“I think we wore them down in the third and fourth quarter, and we were able to capitalize on a lot of their turnovers. Our defense turned into our offense for the most part, and I think we did that tonight.”

With the win, Aliquippa (17-9) advances to the second round, where they will play North Catholic on Wednesday at a site and time to be determined. The district champion Trojans defeated Westmont Hilltop out of District 6, 74-55. It is a challenge that Hines and the Quips are excited to take on.

“Got to be ready. Big team, big challenge, WPIAL champions,” he said. “We just have to go out there and play our game, play our roles, be disciplined, and go out and enjoy it.”

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