Holmes, Lincoln Park rally past rival Aliquippa in PIAA Class 3A 2nd round

By: Greg Macafee
Wednesday, March 13, 2019 | 11:12 PM

As the final buzzer sounded, Lincoln Park coach Mike Bariski turned to the Leopards faithful and at the top of his lungs screamed “how about that.”

He later went on to add that what the Leopards had just accomplished was something he’d never forget. Out of all the games he had coached in his career, he said it would go down as one of the best and deservedly so.

Lincoln Park had overcome an 11-point first-quarter deficit. It played without three key contributors. Sixth-man Casey Oliver fouled out with about five minutes left, and starting forward Andre Wilder played with three or four fouls for a majority of the game.

But, Keeno Holmes scored 30 points, Isaiah Smith added 12, and the Leopards persevered to pull off a 71-69 victory over Section 1-3A foe Aliquippa in a PIAA Class 3A second-round game at Moon.

The win set up a matchup with District 6 champion Richland (22-6) in the PIAA Class 3A quarterfinals Saturday at a time and site to be determined.

“Best comeback ever, best effort ever, down three guys,” Bariski said. “First off, they (Aliquippa) are a great team, they are warriors, they are great basketball players. I may have said at one time they were athletes, but they are basketball players. We were able to do what we do, and we were able to hang on at the end.”

The stage was set before the two teams even took the court. They were tied at one game apiece in their season series. Lincoln Park had stole a win early in the season at Aliquippa, and the Quips returned the favor later in the season and ended Lincoln Park’s 83-game section winning streak.

“This is definitely like a championship to us,” Smith said. “They are like our rival, we are right there with the towns. This was definitely more than a game to us. This was like personal.”

Throughout the first quarter, tensions were high. Both teams were trading verbal jabs after big plays, and neither team would give an inch. By the end of the first eight minutes, they were only separated by two points.

Then, Aliquippa started to pull away.

Kentucky football commit MJ Devonshire started an 8-0 run in the second quarter with an and-one lay-up. Then, Aliquippa extended that lead to 11 with about 4 minutes remaining in the half. But, Holmes and the Leopards knew the Quips were known for going on runs so they just had to weather the storm.

“We know that Aliquippa was a very athletic team and are known for going on runs, more than any other team we’ll play,” Holmes said. “So, we knew if we stuck with it that they would slow down because basketball is a game of runs, so we just stuck with it.”

Lincoln Park answered that 11-0 run with a miniature run of its own to end the second quarter and outscored Aliquippa, 9-2, in those final four minutes. The two teams went into the half separated by just four points, 33-29.

Through the first six minutes of the third quarter, the two teams were never separated by more than single digits. Then, with about two minutes remaining the Leopards began to chip back into the lead.

Oliver was fouled while shooting a 3 and drilled all three free throws. Then, on their next possession, he was fouled on a lay-up and made both attempts from the charity stripe. All of a sudden, Aliquippa’s lead was only one point.

Andre Wilder, returning after sitting with three fouls, drilled a 3 to tie the game at 51. A few possessions later, Homes hit his fifth triple of the game, but Aliquippa’s Will Gipson answered with a triple of his own and Devonshire added two more with a lay-up to extend Aliquippa’s lead to four.

With about five minutes remaining, Oliver fouled out on a tic-tack call, and Bariski needed one of his players to step-up; a few answered the call.

First, Smith scored his first two points of the second half on a steal and breakaway lay-up. Then, he tied the game on their very next possession with a 15-foot jumper. Wilder drew two straight offensive charges, and then Daquan Bradford scored his first bucket of the game to give the Leopards a 63-61 lead. They never trailed again.

“We just needed some big plays from all of us,” Smith said. “A lot of our guys were down tonight. Keeno came up big for us, and I was just trying to make big plays for us because we needed them. We were down 11 or 12 in the first half and we came together tonight and we pulled out the win.”

Down the stretch, Holmes capped off the win for the Leopards. In the fourth quarter, he went 7 of 7 from the free throw line and only missed one, his first, for the game. Ultimately, it came down to those points, but Holmes was never worried.

“I knew if I got the ball I wanted to go to the free throw line,” Holmes said. “Because all summer, every day before school, I’m practicing. I do that so in these moments I’m not worried about it, so I was pretty calm and collected.”

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