CORAOPOLIS – Basketball teams on the rise must make improvement one step at a time.
The Chartiers-Houston High School has certainly made some solid strides this season, including winning the first WPIAL playoff game in program history.
The Bucs, however, were running with Aliquippa, one of Class AA’s elite programs, Wednesday night. At times, C-H matched Aliquippa stride for stride, but the Bucs didn’t have enough offense left to fuel a finishing kick.
Aliquippa guard Jassir Jordan scored 18 points, and the Quips pulled away late for a 59-41 victory at Moon High School.
Chartiers-Houston (17-7) fell behind 33-20 at halftime but pulled to within single digits early in the fourth quarter. Aliquippa (17-5) was able to slow the pace of the game down the stretch, spread the floor and make C-H foul. The Quips made just enough free throws in the fourth quarter (10-for-14) to win their 10th consecutive game.
“I think we earned some respect,” C-H head coach Eugene Briggs said. “What these guys pulled off, especially having to play with two guards and three bigs – who does that anymore? – we’ve got to be proud. You don’t want it to be over, but we probably ran into the wrong matchup in this round. Of all the teams to play, Aliquippa was not the one.”
Aliquippa had too much quickness, too many ball-handlers and created an odd matchup for the Bucs, who utilized only two guards for much of the game.
Chartiers-Houston, however, was able to match Aliquippa basket for basket for long stretches of the game.
“We were in that game until the last few minutes,” Briggs pointed out.
Aliquippa held C-H without a point until the 3:09 mark of the first quarter, then outscored the Bucs 19-11 in the second quarter to take a 33-20 lead.
The Quips stretched the lead to 41-27 with more than four minutes left in the third quarter when they opted to hold the ball, running a five-man motion offense. They ran almost three minutes of the clock, but C-H was able to seize the momentum.
A three-pointer by Alec Ferrari, who scored a game-high 19 points, and another basket from behind the arc by center Ben Shade, pulled C-H to within 43-33 after three quarters. A driving basket by Ferrari opened the fourth quarter, but the Bucs could get no closer than eight points the rest of the way.
“How many times do you see Aliquippa hold the ball in the third quarter? Briggs asked. “You expect them to keep playing.
“What we did this year, it wasn’t done with smoke and mirrors. We tried to play with them and did for most of the game.”
Patrick Anderson scored 13 points for Aliquippa. He and Jordan combined to make 10 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Shade, a 6-6 senior whose improvement this season has become the stuff of legend at C-H, finished with 10 points, including two long three-pointers.