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Aliquippa topples Lincoln Park to return to PIAA title game | TribLIVE.com
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Aliquippa topples Lincoln Park to return to PIAA title game

Tribune-Review
| Tuesday, March 15, 2016 10:48 p.m
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Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Aliquippa's Robert Crute scores past Lincoln Park's Zay Craft during their PIAA AA semifinal game at Geneva on Tuesday, March 15, 2016. The Quips won 55-52 and advanced to the state title game in Hershey.
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Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Aliquippa's cheerleaders toss Hershey Kisses as fans storm the court after defeating Lincoln Park during a PIAA Class AA semifinal game Tuesday, March 15, 2016, at Metheny Fieldhouse on the campus of Geneva College. The Quips won 55-52 and advance to the state title game in Hershey.
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Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Aliquippa's Chucky Humphries and Lincoln Park's Nelly Cummings and Dermontti Welling reach for a rebound during a PIAA Class AA semifinal game Tuesday, March 15, 2016, at Metheny Fieldhouse on the campus of Geneva College. The Quips won 55-52 and advance to the state title game in Hershey.
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Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Aliquippa's Chucky Humphries (center) and Lincoln Park's Nick Aloi (left) and Zay Craft scramble for a loose ball during a PIAA Class AA semifinal game Tuesday, March 15, 2016, at Metheny Fieldhouse on the campus of Geneva College. The Quips won 55-52 and advance to the state title game in Hershey.
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Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Aliquippa's Sheldon Jeter tries to strip Lincoln Park's Nick Aloi of the ball during a PIAA Class AA semifinal game Tuesday, March 15, 2016, at Metheny Fieldhouse on the campus of Geneva College. The Quips won 55-52 and advance to the state title game in Hershey.
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Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Aliquippa's Sheldon Jeter challenges Lincoln Park's Nelly Cummings' 3-pointer during a PIAA Class AA semifinal game Tuesday, March 15, 2016, at Metheny Fieldhouse on the campus of Geneva College. The Quips won 55-52 and advance to the state title game in Hershey.
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Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Cheerleaders jump as Lincoln Park's team is introduced to a standing-room only crowd during a PIAA Class AA semifinal game against Aliquippa Tuesday, March 15, 2016, at Metheny Fieldhouse on the campus of Geneva College. The Quips won 55-52 and advance to the state title game in Hershey.
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Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Aliquippa's Sheldon Jeter is sandwiched between Lincoln Park's Zay Craft and Dermontti Welling during a PIAA Class AA semifinal game Tuesday, March 15, 2016, at Metheny Fieldhouse on the campus of Geneva College. The Quips won 55-52 and advance to the state title game in Hershey.
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Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Aliquippa's Kaezon Pugh looks for the ball as Lincoln Park's Nick Aloi reacts after knocking down a 3-pointer during a PIAA Class AA semifinal game Tuesday, March 15, 2016, at Metheny Fieldhouse on the campus of Geneva College. The Quips won 55-52 and advance to the state title game in Hershey.

Give him another year or two and Aliquippa freshman Deoveon Crute could be the team’s next star, says his coach.

But in the final seconds Tuesday, with a sold-out crowd abuzz and three starters on the bench, Crute’s time arrived a little early. With the Quips just 8 seconds away from Hershey, teammate Sheldon Jeter hustled after an errant court-length pass and fed it to Crute, whose crucial layup clinched a 55-52 victory over Lincoln Park in a PIAA Class AA semifinal at Geneva College.

With seniors Chucky Humphries, Robert Crute and Jassir Jordan all fouled out, Aliquippa (29-0) relied on whoever it had left. Senior starter Kaezon Pugh led with 16 points, made two key free throws with 18.7 seconds left and helped organize a makeshift lineup down the stretch.

In the final seconds, that included a little-used freshman.

“Being a freshman, I tried to step up and fill Chucky’s spot,” Crute said.

“I thought he was going to crap himself when I called him to go in,” Aliquippa coach Nick Lackovich said with a laugh. “He came up big. (Javod Fields, big), Thomas Perry, big. Jumar Mike, big. Bob Cashaw, big. Everybody that came in off that bench, and we need every last one of them, they all came in big.”

Aliquippa lost Crute’s older brother Robert to fouls with 7:42 left. Humphries, who scored 14 points, followed him with 3:05 left. Jordan, who had 10 points, fouled out at 1:11.

Yet with its depth, Aliquippa (29-0) secured a second consecutive trip to the state finals. The Quips were runners-up last season. They’ll face District 12’s Mastery Charter North (27-3) on Saturday at Giant Center.

Lincoln Park’s Nelly Cummings had 20 points, and Nick Aloi scored 13 for the Leopards, which had a one-point, third-quarter lead but never led in the fourth.

Aliquippa also defeated Lincoln Park (25-5) on Feb. 27 in the WPIAL finals. The Quips won 49-45, when Pugh made two free throws to clinch. Pugh had two crucial rebounds in the final 40 seconds Tuesday.

“I trust everybody, just like everybody trusts me,” Pugh said. “At the end of the game for us, who would have thought it’d be me? It could have been Chucky or Jassir — one of the basketball heroes. … I’m never at the top of the key (running the offense). Whatever it takes to win, that’s what I had to do.”

Ahead 50-49 with 39 seconds left, Pugh snagged the rebound when Jeter missed the front of a one-and-one. Three seconds later, when Jeter made only one of two free throws, Pugh forced a jumpball and Aliquippa maintained possession.

“He himself would not let us lose this game,” Lackovich said. “He made big play after big play. Big rebound after big rebound.”

With the Quips trying to consume clock, they put the ball in Pugh’s hands. He was fouled with 18.7 seconds left and made both free throws to lead 53-49.

With 8 seconds left, Lincoln Park’s Keeno Holmes cut the lead to one. The freshman was fouled shooting a 3-pointer and made all three free throws. After the last, Pugh was asked to inbound. He overthrew Jeter with a court-length pass, but Jeter chased it down just before the end line, twisted and threw a pass to Crute for the layup.

With 5.2 seconds left, Aliquippa led 55-52. A last-second heave fell short.

“I think everybody on our team thought it was out of bounds and they didn’t get back (on defense),” Lincoln Park coach Mike Bariski said. “I even thought it was out of bounds, but he made a (heck) of a play at the end.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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