Second Half Turnaround Lifts Aliquippa to 2A Title
PITTSBURGH — In the span of thirty days, Aliquippa handed Northgate two double-digit losses. Nearly thirty days after the latter win, the No. 1 Quips finished the trifecta at the Petersen Events Center to clinch the WPIAL Class 2A Championship, 52-40.
Winning championships has become a commonality amongst this group of Aliquippa players after securing two football WPIAL titles in the last two seasons. Now, the Quips add their first boys’ basketball title since 2016.
“It feels good, real good” junior guard Quentin Goode said. “Especially since we got one in football, we got one in both sports in the same year. It feels real good.”
“We came up short in the semifinals the last two years, so being here and finally getting it done is a great feeling,” junior forward Cam Lindsey added.
As Goode and Lindsey donned black sunglasses – a team idea for their championship photo – they agreed that winning the title at the Pete was a little bit sweeter.
“I feel like basketball is a lot more difficult than a football championship,” Lindsey said.
That difficulty was apparent throughout the game as a sluggish start was not in the cards for top-seeded Aliquippa (20-6) against Northgate (19-8), but it was a tale of two halves that was steered by the 6-foot-3 Lindsey.
Northgate seized the opportunity under the bright lights and led by as many as 11 before halftime. The Flames shot 75 percent from the floor in the first quarter, which was capped off by a 7-0 run.
“It was just what I thought was going to happen, it was going to be a dogfight,” Aliquippa head coach Nick Lackovich said.
Aliquippa started to shrink the lead in the second quarter as the Quips trailed by just three heading into the locker room. After a strong start shooting for Northgate, the Flames went a little cold in the second frame, going 2-12 from the floor including three misses from beyond the arc.
“In the last minute of the half we were up nine and we played a little sloppy,” Northgate head coach Cam Williams said.
The battle that ensued in the second half had Lindsey in the spotlight as he was unstoppable in the paint, finishing with a double-double with 19 points and 17 rebounds. Lindsey was too much to handle for the Northgate defense as he rose up out of the defenders to grab rebound after rebound while finishing with put back scores.
“We tried to figure out the mismatches in their defense,” Lindsey said. “In the first half we took a lot of difficult shots that were unnecessary at times. I think it was from the nerves at first, but once we got settled in, it allowed me to take over.”
While Lindsey penetrated the Northgate defense, Quentin Goode went to work defensively for the Quips, locking down the Flames’ top scorer, Josh Williams. Coming off the heels of a 38-point performance and surpassing 1,000 points, Williams was kept under wraps as he finished with 11 points. That output was due in large part to Goode’s defense.
“He had a hot start coming into the playoffs, averaging around 30. It feels real good,” Goode said about keeping Williams in check.
As Aliquippa tried to put the game away, Northgate lingered around as the Flames brought the game back into reach after a Stephen Goetz three made it a five-point game with 3:54 left. Subsequently, Northgate called a timeout as Cam Williams spoke to his players for one last gasp.
“[I told them] we got to box out,” Cam Williams said. “We have to maintain the boards and come back down and get another shot.”
While rebounding was an emphasis for Northgate, it was Aliquippa that cleaned up on the glass as the Quips held the rebounding advantage 40-31.
Following the timeout, Aliquippa held onto possession for over a minute and a half and called ballgame to win its first title in seven years.
“These guys are a product of something we’ve been building for,” Lackovich said. “This was the mountain top.”
With Aliquippa reaching the proverbial WPIAL peak, the Quips did it with a younger core that includes numerous rising seniors for next year, including Lindsey and Goode.
“Last year we were young and we went to the state championship,” Lackovich said. “About halfway through the year this year I looked around and realized we are still young.”
Along with Lindey’s dominant output, senior Donovan Walker added 12. On the Flames’ side, Landon Lockett provided nine points with Goetz adding eight.
For Northgate, it was the first time in a championship game since 1988 as the Flames looked to bring home the first title in program history. It’s been a long four years for Northgate, and an emotional Cam Williams emphasized that this is a changed program
“That was my vision when I came into the program was to have that standard,” Cam Williams said. “We’ve been in the gym for the last three years. When we go to every playoff game, we know that we wanted to get there. The opportunity is special.”