PIAA semifinal win gives Aliquippa chance for rare football-basketball championship double

Saturday, March 19, 2022 | 4:29 PM

Aliquippa is headed to Hershey for the second time in three months, chasing after a rare football-basketball double state championship.

Sophomore point guard Quentin Goode, who quarterbacked the Quips to a football title in the fall, made a winning layup with 30 seconds left Saturday afternoon as Aliquippa defeated South Allegheny, 57-55, in a PIAA Class 3A semifinal at Highlands.

South Allegheny made 13 3-pointers and shot 52% from beyond the arc, but couldn’t keep Aliquippa out of the paint. The Quips scored the game’s final four points, including a tying putback basket by D.J. Walker with a little less than two minutes left.

“All sports are the same (mindset),” Goode said. “You’re really just trying to win, so you’ve got to learn to keep your composure and do what you’ve got to do.”

The six players who scored for the Quips were all members of the school’s football team that won a state title in December. Five of the six are sophomores and Walker is a junior.

“There’s no doubt about it, this is a very special group of kids,” Aliquippa coach Nick Lackovich said. “Every so often we get these groups that are special. You can tell at an early age.”

Aliquippa (21-8) has reached the state basketball finals for the first time since winning the PIAA Class 2A title in 2016.

The Class 3A championship is 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Giant Center in Hershey. The Quips face Philadelphia Catholic League school Devon Prep (18-7), the third-place team from District 12. Devon Prep defeated District 1 champion Holy Redeemer, 73-72, in overtime in the other semifinal.

Only four schools in state history have won PIAA basketball and football titles in the same school year. Among them, Jeannette accomplished the feat in 2007-08 with then-star Terrelle Pryor.

“We’re trying to go down in history,” said Walker, who scored a game-high 20 points. “If we do this, we can be considered one of the best ever.”

Cameron Lindsey added 12 points for Aliquippa, and Jayace Williams added 10.

“It’s a blessing to do it once,” Lindsey said, “but to do it again with the same group of guys is the best ever.”

Junior Bryce Epps led South Allegheny with 15 points, sophomore Michael Michalski had 14 and senior Dillion Hynes added 12. The Gladiators (20-8) were trying to reach the state finals for the first time.

Six different players made at least one 3-pointer for South Allegheny. Hynes made four 3s, Epps had three and Michalski and Ethan Kirkwood each had two.

“We shot it well today, definitely,” said South Allegheny coach Tony DiCenzo, but he added their original game plan wasn’t to shoot so many 3s. “Aliquippa is a tremendously athletic team, and that makes it incredibly difficult. As you saw, Bryce had a difficult time getting by his guy and creating for himself or his teammates.

“Credit to our guys, we stepped up in big moments and made some really big shots.”

Combined, South Allegheny shooters went 13 for 25 from 3-point range, yet made only 6 of 17 attempts from inside the arc. The Gladiators scored 39 points on 3-point shots and 12 points on 2s.

“Last year in the WPIAL semifinals, it was the exact same thing,” Lackovich said. “We bring out the best in them, I guess. They seem to make them against us.”

The game was close throughout with six ties and seven lead changes. South Allegheny made eight 3s in the first half, yet trailed Aliquippa, 34-32, at the break. The teams were tied 17-17 after one quarter. Aliquippa led 45-44 after three.

Neither team had a lead larger than five points after halftime.

Consecutive baskets by Williams and Walker gave Aliquippa a 53-48 lead with about four minutes left in the fourth. South Allegheny answered with a 7-0 run and led 55-53 with two minutes left after a layup by Michalski.

Walker’s offensive rebound and putback basket for Aliquippa tied the score at 55. The Quips won the rebound battle by 11.

South Allegheny’s Hynes and Kirkwood each attempted a go-ahead 3-pointer with about a minute left but missed and Aliquippa took possession.

With about 30 seconds left, Goode used a screen by Williams near the 3-point line to cut into the lane for a go-ahead layup and a 57-55 lead.

After calling timeout with nine seconds left, South Allegheny tried a 3-pointer, but Hynes’ shot from the right corner was blocked out of bounds by Lindsey.

With 2.2 seconds left, the Gladiators tried to throw an alley-oop, but Aliquippa’s Williams broke up the inbounds pass as time expired.

“It’s commonplace up there for (Aliquippa) to be playing in big games,” DiCenzo said. “Their athletic programs — football and basketball — speak for themselves. … For kids that young to be that physically strong and for the moment to not be too big is a tribute to them.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

Tags: ,

More High School Basketball

New Freeport girls basketball coach Ketterer is familiar face
Westmoreland County high school notebook: WCCA awards scholarships
Leechburg boys basketball coach Damian Davies resigns
Harry Jenkins, longtime Fox Chapel basketball coach, dies
Penn Hills notebook: Drew Schifino plans basketball camp