Ellis School tops Aliquippa for 2nd playoff victory in program history
The Ellis School won only its second WPIAL playoff game in school history Friday night.
But it wasn’t without some anxious moments as the Tigers ultimately posted a 47-37 victory.
Down 22-2 a little more than a minute into the second quarter, Aliquippa staged a strong comeback, tying the game at 29 late in the third quarter before Ellis regrouped and took control of the game with an 11-0 run.
The No. 9 Tigers (16-7) will take on top-seeded and three-time defending WPIAL champion Bishop Canevin Thursday at a time and site to be determined.
Aliquippa finished the season at 7-16.
Sophomore Natalie Jasper led the early Ellis surge with 14 points in the first half, including the 3-pointer that put the Tigers up 22-2.
The Quips made their way back. Kayla Czambel canned an off-balance 3-pointer to beat the second quarter buzzer. Sophomore Amaya Walker then hit a trio of treys in the third quarter, including one with 2 minutes, 22 seconds left in the third quarter to tie the game at 29.
Jasper then drove in for a basket that gave Ellis the lead for good.
“You’ve got to hand it to Aliquippa,” Ellis coach Dan LaGamba said. “They made a run, and we know there are a series of runs in a basketball game. I had faith in my girls at the end of the third quarter and we’d be all right”
Aliquippa coach Michele Witt had no real change in strategy to guide the comeback.
“I told them to just believe in themselves,” Witt said. “They were very nervous, it was a while since they were in the playoffs. After the jitters were done, I told them they had to go out there and be who they are.”
The Quips committed 13 turnovers in the first quarter, then settled down, committing just one miscue in the third quarter.
Sophomore Alexis Crichlow had a strong fourth quarter for the Tigers, scoring eight of the team’s first 10 points and grabbing five rebounds.
“That’s something we’ve been preaching to her all season,” LaGamba said. “She’s that caliber of a post player. She’s hands-down one of our best rebounders. She did yeoman’s work in the post.”
Crichlow finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds as the Tigers scored eight points off turnovers to begin the final quarter.
Walker had 16 points and seven rebounds to lead the Quips.
Said Witt: “Amaya’s a key asset to this team. After the 3s, they switched up (defense) and we’re trying to do something else and it stopped. Again, that comes with being young and having a new experience. I’m thankful to have her this season.”
Forwards Nyhlese Lowe and Gloria Hardy played well coming off the bench for the Quips.
Katharine Ference had nine points and Natale Graf four to round out the Ellis scoring.
Aliquippa was seeking its first playoff win since a 49-48 victory over Avella in 2014.
The only other Ellis playoff win was an 82-79 thriller over Leechburg in double overtime three years ago.
George Guido is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.