Aliquippa falls to Devon Prep in lopsided PIAA title loss
Aliquippa head coach Nick Lackovich on his team’s PIAA title loss to Devon Prep
Hear what Aliquippa head coach Nick Lackovich had to say after his team’s loss to Devon Prep in the PIAA Class 3A Men’s Basketball Championship game.
Parth Upadhyaya, Beaver County Times
HERSHEY — When the final bell rang on Saturday afternoon, Cameron Lindsey stood alone at the edge of the scorer’s table and watched what was happening in front of him.
High school sophomore forward Aliquippa wasn’t used to being outside watching the type of scene unfolding in midfield at Hershey’s Giant Center. The Devon Prep players came together, jumped up and down and sang in unison to celebrate their PIAA Class 3A men’s basketball championship. And while some of his Quips teammates lowered their heads or looked away after their 76-58 loss, Lindsey clutched his jersey in both hands as he focused on the emotion of the Tide players.
“We’re used to winning a lot,” said Lindsey, who led his team with 14 points and 11 rebounds in the loss. “So it definitely felt different. I was just trying to enjoy the moment. I hope I don’t have to feel this pain anymore.
Of course, Lindsey – along with several of her teammates – got used to the feeling of victory. Not always on the basketball court per se, but definitely on the football field. Lindsey and seven other players on Aliquippa’s roster are also members of the Quips football team, which finished with a 13-1 record last fall and won WPIAL and PIAA titles.
So it’s easy to see why the sentiment the Quips (21-9) felt on Saturday after their lopsided loss to the Tide (25-4) was alien to many within the program. But although their performance against Devon Prep fell far short of the acts of dominance they regularly display on Friday nights, head coach Nick Lackovich acknowledged his group did the unexpected by simply going to Hershey.
The Quips made their first appearance in the PIAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game since 2016 – the year they won their fifth state title on the hardwood. If Aliquippa had won, it would have been only the fifth time in Pennsylvania history that a school had won state football and basketball championships in the same school year.
But at 4:35 of the third quarter, making history seemed out of reach. It was then that Devon Prep scored the final two points of their 25-0 run – which started with more than two minutes left in the first half.
“I can’t sit here and say, ‘Well, you know, we didn’t expect them to do this,'” Lackovich said. “They did everything we expected. We had a bad stretch there. And in championship basketball, you can’t do that.
Lindsey — a four-star prospect as a linebacker in the Class of 2024, according to Rivals — was a force in the paint at times. However, his efforts could only carry his team so far.
Second-year guard Donovan “DJ” Walker’s ability to take control of games has already saved Aliquippa. But, on an afternoon like this, even Walker — a division I recruit himself as a defensive back — couldn’t get him started. He finished with eight points on 3-of-16 shooting from the floor.
“It was just one of those days where I just wasn’t doing what I was supposed to do for my team,” he said.
Yet a group that entered the Giant Center as unified as ever left in the same state.
Quips players wore warm-up T-shirts that displayed a large letter “Z” on the front in their school’s classic red and black colors and a message on the back that read: THIS IS FOR YOU. They wanted to pay tribute to the late stepfather of second-year goaltender Brandon Banks, Zuri Armstrong, who died of a pulmonary embolism on Monday.
“I know his stepdad was watching us,” Walker said. “And I know he’s proud of us – win, lose or draw.”
And as they boarded their team bus before leaving for Aliquippa, they thought about how they would redeem themselves in the future instead of sulking over the loss. They are confident that they will soon prove themselves on the basketball court, just as they have time and time again on the grill.
“If they’ve been slow in the offseason, I’m very optimistic (for the future),” Lackovich said. “I mean, this is where it begins and where it ends.”