For most high school teams, coming through with a big win to reach the PIAA semifinals would set off a raucous celebration at midcourt or in the locker room.
Not for Aliquippa.
With the way the Quips (23-6) handled their 67-56 PIAA Class 2A quarterfinal victory against Bishop Canevin Saturday at Peters Township High School, you would have hardly known they won the game if you saw them in the handshake line afterward — let alone advanced to the Western Region final for the second year in a row. Then again, most of Aliquippa’s players have been in this position before in multiple sports, and they know there is still more work to be done before they can truly celebrate.
“We were here last year, so we know what we’ve got to do,” said junior guard Quentin “Cheese” Goode, also the quarterback of the Quips football team. “We’re not just going to sit here and celebrate, because we didn’t do anything yet.”
A balanced scoring attack Saturday was Aliquippa’s recipe for success, just as it has been most of the season. Cam Lindsey, Demarkus Walker and Goode finished with a team-high 16 points apiece, while D.J. Walker finished with 14 to help lead the charge. Senior Shea Champine led all scorers with 27 points for the Crusaders (22-7).
“That’s the way we’ve been all year. No one guy carries us,” Quips coach Nick Lackovich said. “Other guys started stepping it up.”
The teams traded blows throughout a back-and-forth first quarter, and Canevin took a 14-11 lead into the second on the strength of nine first-quarter points from Jason Cross. D.J. Walker then began to heat up in the second quarter, spurring the Quips to a 27-26 halftime lead while scoring all 14 of his points in the first half.
After Champine tied the score at 33-33 with a layup in the third, Demarkus Walker hit a go-ahead 3-pointer to kick-start a 10-0 run for Aliquippa. The Quips took a 45-35 lead into the fourth, but the Crusaders began to slowly chip away at the deficit with Champine and Cross spearheading the rally.
Back-to-back layups by Cross made it a 49-43 game midway through the fourth, then Goode traded 3-pointers with Canevin’s Michael Vaughn to make it 52-46. After two free throws by Lindsey, Champine responded with back-to-back layups to cut the Aliquippa lead to 54-50 with 2:41 remaining.
That was as close as the Crusaders would come, as a fastbreak layup by Lindsey made it 61-52 to effectively seal the win late in the fourth. The Quips now will move on to face District 9 runner-up Otto Eldred (26-2) Tuesday for a berth in the PIAA championship.
“We know what it takes to win,” Lindsey said. “Whenever we’re scoring as a team, we’re definitely a harder team to beat.”
• Facing high-powered District 3 champion Reading (30-1) at Altoona High School, WPIAL champion New Castle (24-4) fell into a double-digit hole in the first quarter that it could never climb its way out of in a season-ending 72-48 defeat. Da’Juan Young led the Red Hurricanes with 18 points to go with 13 from fellow senior Isaiah Boice. Ruben Rodriguez led all scorers with 27 points while Myles Grey added 16 and Aris Rodriguez finished with 15 for Reading, which is looking like a major threat to win its second PIAA Class 6A championship in the past three seasons.
• No matter who won Saturday’s all-WPIAL, all-Lancers PIAA quarterfinal showdown at North Allegheny between Deer Lakes and Neshannock, somebody was going to be advancing further than they had ever gone before. And after a game that featured several swings both ways, it was Deer Lakes that mustered up enough momentum late to pull away for a 69-56 victory. Deer Lakes trailed at halftime, 33-27, before taking control of the game with a nearly flawless third quarter. Bryce Robson scored a team-leading 20 points and Billy Schaefer added 16 for Deer Lakes. Jack Glies led all players with 29 points for Neshannock, with 21 of those points coming in the first half. Deer Lakes now will move on to face District 6 champion Penn Cambria (24-5) Tuesday in the Western Region final.
Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at email@example.com.