Trib HSSN boys basketball team of the week: Week ending March 7
Monday, March 9, 2020 | 10:47 PM
The first round of the PIAA basketball playoffs is always the great unknown for district teams.
Teams that reach the WPIAL finals may be hungry for more success or caught celebrating or pouting after the title game result.
Teams that don’t reach the district finals may be reinvigorated and ready for a deep state playoff run or caught in a funk over the disappointment of a district title dream lost and ready to turn in their uniforms.
Twenty WPIAL boys teams lost in the PIAA first round last weekend while 15 were winners and are preparing for the second round.
One of those teams is Aliquippa. The Quips lost in the WPIAL Class 3A semifinals to Lincoln Park but bounced back nicely in the PIAA first round with a win over District 10 runner-up Sharon, 79-72.
“We took that loss to Lincoln Park in the semifinals very hard,” Aliquippa coach Dwight Hines. “We went into that game very confident, but the outcome wasn’t in our favor. Our heads were down, but we were not out. I gave the team a few days off to reflect. We reconvened the following day after the championship game and got back to work.
“Winning a WPIAL championship is a great accomplishment, but it’s not the only accomplishment. There is a bigger prize down the road, and that’s bringing home a state championship.”
It takes five victories on the Road to Hershey to win state gold, and win No. 1 for the Quips came thanks to a huge effort by senior Zuriah Fisher, who led all scorers with 32 points.
“Zuriah Fisher, we’ve been calling him a demon for a while now,” Hines said. “He fears nothing. His performance was huge. He put the team on his back and carried us in the second half along with seniors Michael Dawkins and Dewayne Revis. I genuinely feel that Zuriah makes everyone better around him.”
Fellow seniors Dawkins had 18 points and Revis 12 points.
The first quarter did not go well for the Quips, as they fell behind Sharon early and trailed 26-14 heading into the second quarter.
“Yes, we started very slow. We had to get a feel for the game, the refs, the whole atmosphere,” Hines said. “Once we settled in, the team pulled themselves together and got mentally engaged with what they needed to do, without me saying much at all. We have been pretty much through every scenario there could be. What’s another one?”
Aliquippa started chipping away at the Sharon lead in the second quarter and trailed by seven points at the half and by only one point after three quarters.
The Quips then outscored the Tigers 24-16 in the fourth quarter to win by seven and advance to the second round.
Don’t be deceived by records at this point in the season. Aliquippa enters Wednesday’s game against WPIAL champion North Catholic at 17-9. But a tough section and strong nonsection schedule has the Quips ready.
“I feel we have played the best teams in WPIAL basketball,” Hines said. “That’s just the way I schedule. We play to get better over time, especially with the short time we have our kids, as most of them play multiple sports. This time of year, our kids would have played in packed venues, loud atmospheres and against tough opponents and crazy crowds. We have seen it all, so fear should not be factor. We just have to play our game and enjoy doing it.”
Aliquippa wasn’t the only WPIAL team enjoying first-round success in the state playoffs. Of the 15 boys teams to advance, Class 3A was a combined 6-1 with three of those wins coming from Section 1 teams.
“Our section is very strong,” Hines said. “It is one of the best divisions around. It speaks volumes.”
Now, the top team from Section 2-3A and the District 7 playoffs stands in the way of Aliquippa advancing to the state quarterfinals.
“We know North Catholic,” Hines said. “They are very good and very well coached. I predict it to be a very intense game. Both teams will play hard for 32-plus minutes. The table is full and ready to be served. We just have to sit down and eat.”
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