'It hurts': Aliquippa comes up short against Lancaster Mennonite in PIAA Class 2A title game
HERSHEY — When Aliquippa lost the PIAA Class 3A boys basketball championship game to Devon Prep last year, it hurt. But there was hope that with that experience under their belts, the Quips would leave Hershey with a much better feeling this year.
It wasn’t to be.
Aliquippa’s shooting turned ice cold while Lancaster Mennonite did all the right things down the stretch to beat the Quips, 60-44, and win the Class 2A title at the Giant Center on Friday afternoon.
It was the first state championship for the District Three champion Blazers (21-8) while Aliquippa (24-7) was trying for its sixth title and first since 2016.
There were plenty of tears shed during the awards ceremony and it was obvious that this loss hurt.
“I’m not so sure that this doesn’t hurt more because this was definitely, we felt, a winnable game,” Quips coach Nick Lackovich said. “I don’t mean that to put down anybody. We really thought it was a winnable game. Last year when we came here, when I got on that bus from Aliquippa, I knew that it was going to be an uphill battle. This year, I felt a little different.”
Aliquippa junior forward Cameron Lindsey agreed with his coach.
“It hurts,” Lindsey said. “We had a pretty similar team back from last year. Getting this close, it’s not easy getting here in the first place. So getting here two times and still coming up short, it hurts a lot. I would say this one feels way different. Last year, we were young and inexperienced. I feel like (Devon Prep’s) guards were just running us out of the gym. This year, I felt like we had a lot more experience. We had a better chance of matching up with them.”
Unfortunately for the Quips, nobody could match up with 6-foot-7 Lancaster Mennonite senior forward David Weaver who scored 15 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, blocked eight shots and even knocked down a pair of three pointers from the top of the key. They also could not match up with senior guard Cam Hurst who scored a game-high 23 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and blocked three shots.
Weaver, who broke two bones in his right hand early in the season, did not return to the Blazers’ lineup until the final two regular season games. His contributions in the playoffs have been incalculable.
“That’s a good team, man” Lackovich said. “I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Hey man, we should have beat them’ or whatever. Naturally, we feel like we should have, but that’s just the competitor in us. The big guy (Weaver) had a lot to do with what they were able to do. The big guy cleans up a lot of their mistakes.”
Cold shooting and turnovers led to an early Aliquippa deficit. The Quips found the range just three times in 14 attempts and turned the ball over five times in the opening quarter. An 11-2 scoring run by the Blazers led to a 13-4 lead with 1 minute, 38 seconds left.
In the second quarter, Aliquippa’s shooting didn’t improve much, but Lancaster Mennonite turned the ball over five times and the Quips fought back to within 25-22 by halftime. Cameron Lindsey sparked Aliquippa with an 8-point effort in the period.
The Quips came out rolling in the third quarter and took its first lead of the game. Sophomore guard Tiqwai Hayes took a beautiful pass in the lane from senior guard Donovan Walker and converted from the right baseline to give his team a 28-27 lead with 5:08 left in the quarter.
Hurst answered with a pair of free throws with 4:48 remaining to give the Blazers a 29-28 advantage and they never trailed again.
“Actually, I felt pretty good when we ended up tying it and I think we went up one,” Lackovich said. “Then we just got away from what got us to that point. (Hurst) scored a lot and, to be politically correct, he basically had like one move and we just didn’t do anything to stop it.”
From that point, it was all Lancaster Mennonite. The Blazers closed out the third quarter with a 12-6 scoring run and took a 41-34 lead into the fourth quarter.
With Lancaster Mennonite holding a 49-40 lead with 4:23 left in the contests, Aliquippa started fouling to get the ball back, the Blazers converted and gradually pulled away to victory.
Four of the five players who started for the Quips will be seniors next year. So getting back to Hershey will be at the top of everyone’s list of goals.
“Getting there isn’t easy, but that’s definitely the goal for next year,” Lindsey said. “We want another chance at this. Hopefully we’ll finish on top.”
This article originally appeared on Beaver County Times: 'It hurts': Aliquippa comes up short against Lancaster Mennonite in PIAA Class 2A title game