HERSHEY, Pa. — Aliquippa shot lights out Tuesday in its PIAA semifinal victory.
Three days later, a dismal shooting effort turned the lights out on its championship hopes.
Aliquippa could never find its rhythm offensively, and its stingy defense was much more giving than normal, and those two storylines told the tale of how District 3 champion Lancaster Mennonite beat Aliquippa, 60-44, in the Class 2A championship Friday at Giant Center.
It was a disappointing end to the season for Aliquippa (24-7), which was aiming for its first title since 2016 and sixth overall. The Quips lost in the final for the second consecutive season, and for the many dual-sport athletes on the team, it was a third consecutive state championship loss — the Aliquippa football team was defeated in the fall in the PIAA final.
“The further you go, the more difficult the teams are,” said Aliquippa junior Cam Lindsey, who finished with 12 points and a game-high 17 rebounds.
Despite holding the lead for only 20 seconds in the game, Aliquippa trailed just 47-40 after Quentin Goode’s 3-pointer three minutes into the fourth quarter. But the Quips ended up converting only one field goal the rest of the game, and that came on a long-range 3 from reserve Qalil Goode at the buzzer.
When Aliquippa attempted a shot, there was usually a rebound to be had. That’s because the Quips were just 17 of 65 from the field (26.2%). The Quips were outscored by only one point in the middle quarters, but were absolutely dismal in the first (3 of 14) and fourth quarters (3 of 21) when they were outscored, 34-19. They were 3 of 19 from 3-point range and 7 of 14 from the free-throw line, and the 44 points were their fewest in more than two months. The shooting struggles came after the Quips shot 66% from the field in a mercy-rule win against Otto-Eldred in the semifinals.
“Poor shot selection,” Aliquippa coach Nick Lackovich said. “Every shot was a hard shot, and it didn’t need to be that way. It just came down to poor shot selection.”
The Aliquippa starters went 14 of 57 from the field. D.J. Walker led the Quips with 14 points, Lindsey added his 11 and Quentin Goode chipped in with 10.
Aliquippa, which didn’t play anybody taller than 6 feet 2, had a difficult time dealing with David Weaver, a 6-7 center who helped Lancaster Mennonite (21-8) win its first title after finishing with 15 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocked shots. Weaver was a load to deal with down low. Even when he didn’t redirect a shot with one of his hands, his presence alone likely had the Quips thinking twice when they drove into the paint.
Lancaster Mennonite got physical with Aliquippa, particularly with Lindsey, who took an elbow to the lip in the opening quarter and found himself knocked to the floor on numerous occasions. Of Lindsey’s 17 rebounds, 13 were offensive.
“I was getting beat up the whole game, but I tried to shake it off and try to help get my team the win,” said Lindsey, also a football standout who has offers from Pitt, Penn State and West Virginia.
Despite Aliquippa’s offensive struggles, if the Quips had played their trademark outstanding defense, it might have hung around until the end. Instead, the Quips allowed Lancaster Mennonite to shoot 20 of 38 from the field (52.6%), including 6 of 13 from behind the arc. Only Lincoln Park (66) and Harrisburg (65) scored more points against the Quips this season.
In addition to 6-7 Weaver, senior guard Camden Hurst also shined for Lancaster Mennonite. Hurst, who missed 16 games this season due to a broken hand, poured in a game-high 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds. Hurst scored 12 of his points in the third quarter, among them back-to-back 3-pointers to cap a 10-0 run that turned a one-point deficit into a nine-point lead.
“He scored a lot. To be politically correct, he basically had one move, and we didn’t do anything to stop it,” said Lackovich, whose Quips also gave up 10 points to Savier Sumrall.
Added Lackovich, “That’s a good team. I’m not going to sit here and say we should have beat them. Naturally we feel like we should have, but that’s just the competitor in us.”
Aliquippa competed. There’s no doubt about that. The Quips simply picked an awful game to have one of their worst offensive and defensive performances of the season. That was enough to snap a 10-game win streak and keep the wait for PIAA title No. 6 lasting at least another year.
“We didn’t play well,” Lackovich said. “You have to take your hat off to them. They played well. They executed. They did what they wanted to do. We didn’t execute, we didn’t rebound, we didn’t do things we usually do, especially the last few weeks. And that’s what happened.”
Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.