Aliquippa girls basketball coach Dwight Lindsey took a trip down memory lane as he stood outside his team’s locker room following Monday night’s game 

“I remember back in 1989 when our boys and girls won state championships,” Lindsey recalled, “and maybe a day or two after that was a big pep rally at the school and both teams were on the elementary school stage. It was like seeing a rock band or something. It was that big to me.”

Monday was a big night for the Aliquippa Lady Quips, a one-time WPIAL power who have been working hard trying to bring back their glory days. And in front of a large crowd on senior night, Aliquippa used a stifling defensive performance to beat Freedom, 40-33, and finish Class 2A Section 1 play 12-0, thus becoming unbeaten section champions for the first time since 1993.

“We’ve been grinding every year since I was in ninth grade and I’m excited we were able to do this,” said Aliquippa standout junior guard Aunesty Johnson.

Johnson scored a game-high 21 points for Aliquippa, which improved to 19-1 after winning its 13th game in a row. This is a team that last finished with a winning record in 2014. The team’s only loss came to Class 5A Moon in a tournament at the Community College of Beaver County in December.

Monday’s win came nearly a year to the day that Freedom throttled Aliquippa, 73-42, in the section finale, a game in which Bulldogs star Shaye Bailey poured in a school-record 51 points. Freedom went on to defeat Aliquippa again in the WPIAL semifinals before coming up short in the final.

But Aliquippa beat the host Bulldogs, 47-45, in overtime on Jan. 11, and on Monday completed the regular-season sweep after limiting Bailey to 15 points. Bailey was the only player to score in double figures for the Bulldogs (10-10, 8-3), who shot just 13 of 49 from the field (26%) and were limited to seven or fewer points in each of the final three quarters.

“One of our assistants, Vashawn Patrick, he came up with a great defensive plan switching and mixing up the defense, and it worked out really well in our favor,” added Aliquippa junior guard Carla Brown, who scored 10 points.

In trying to slow down Bailey, a senior guard and first-team all-state pick, Aliquippa threw a little bit of everything at her, including man-to-man, zones, box-and-ones and triangle-and-twos.

“We wanted to make it a little difficult for her,” Lindsey said. “We don’t want her to get in that comfort zone because when she gets that full steam ahead she’s tough to deal with. It’s almost like LeBron James. When LeBron makes up his mind and he’s going to the rack, you’re either getting dunked on or there’s going to be a foul. She just has that type of mentality.”

Freedom’s Shaye Bailey advances toward the basket while being defended by Aliquippa’s Samiyah Ausby on Monday. Bailey scored a team-high 15 points in Freedom’s 40-33 loss. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Johnson, Aliquippa’s leading scorer on the season, has a similar mentality. Johnson, an excellent finisher who scored most of her points on drives to the basket (banking almost all of them in), accounted for 14 of Aliquippa’s 22 first-half points Monday and her basket three minutes into the third quarter gave the Quips a 29-21 lead, which at the time was their largest of the game.

“I kind of compare it to James Worthy back in the day. Latrell Sprewell. Those people in the open floor,” Lindsey said. “She gets going and she goes strong. It’s like she has another gear that a lot of girls don’t have because she gets high off the ground, as well. And she does a good job of getting it right at the perfect angle to kiss it off the glass. She plays with an energy and a passion that a lot of girls don’t have. Kudos to her because she was amazing tonight.”

Brown was pretty good, as well, and her personal 6-0 run to begin the fourth quarter widened Aliquippa’s advantage to 38-26. Freedom eventually sliced its deficit to seven points as Aliquippa struggled mightily from the free-throw line (the Quips were 4 of 18 overall, including 0-6 in the fourth quarter), but that’s as close as the Bulldogs would get.

Aliquippa honored seniors Evanna Lay and Dacari Hall before the game. Hall was not in attendance as she is currently at Children’s Hospital fighting an upper respiratory infection, Lindsey said. Not that it stopped her from enjoying some of the night, though. She and the team FaceTimed with each other in the locker room before and after the game.

“She was really excited to see the girls and everything,” said Lindsey. “It’s just a great feeling. We’re a family. That’s what family does.”

Aliquippa coach Dwight Lindsey reacts to his team’s 40-33 win against Freedom. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

It had been 13 years since the Aliquippa girls last won a section title and 31 years since they were last unbeaten section champs, both milestones the program has achieved in just the past week. The Quips won their only WPIAL titles when they captured four in a row from 1987-90 and their only PIAA titles came when they won back-to-back crowns in 1989 and 1990.

“We just want to make it as far as we can and get every record that we can,” Johnson said.

And while doing so they might just be inspiring a future generation of Lady Quips. Close to a dozen young girls wearing Aliquippa jerseys sat in the bleachers across from the Aliquippa bench loudly cheering on the team Monday.

That led the team’s coach to return to memory lane.

“Kind of like what I said about me seeing those ‘89 and ‘90 teams and looking at them like rock stars, I’m sure those youth kids feel the same way seeing Aunesty go off the glass and play well, Carla hit a big shot or Yaree (Carter) on the glass doing her thing,” Lindsey explained. “I think that these kids get to see that and get some motivation and get some hope from that and say, ‘Hey, I want to do that in a few years when I get in ninth or 10th grade.’

“We’re just trying to change the culture. It wasn’t always like this. We’re just trying to embrace it and let these kids know that it’s OK to play girls basketball. You don’t have to be just a cheerleader. You don’t have to be just a volleyball player. You can do all three. So that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Brad Everett

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at