Redbank Valley eager to take on undefeated Aliquippa in PIAA Class AA quarterfinals
If the best postseason in Redbank Valley basketball history is to continue, it will take a monumental upset.
The Bulldogs will attempt to extend their season by knocking off the state's No. 1 team, undefeated WPIAL champ Aliquippa, in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Plum High School.
The basketball history at the two schools couldn't be more different.
Redbank Valley (22-5) is coming off the third District 9 title in school history, and its two state playoff wins this season are the second and third all-time.
Aliquippa (27-0), on the other hand, has four state titles, 11 district titles and a long list of Division I players in its history, but the Bulldogs are concerned only with the team they're preparing to face.
“I just look at it like anything can happen,” Redbank Valley guard Sam Heeter said. “They're good, but they're human, too. Any team can be beaten.”
Heeter, point guard Devin Shumaker and guard/forward Jake Dougherty will have their work cut out for them as the primary ball handlers for Redbank Valley. Aliquippa will apply pressure in both full-court and half-court sets with its deep backcourt of Stephon McGinnis, Darrien Fields, Jassir Jordan and Sheldon Jeter.
“They're definitely going to put pressure on. We did a drill in practice where its the five of us on offense against 12 defensive guys,” Dougherty said. “We had to dribble through them and just get used to protecting the ball.”
The Bulldogs' bread and butter has been their post play with forwards Zach Westover and Dalton Dougherty producing points on the offensive glass.
But unlike Redbank Valley's previous two state playoff opponents, Aliquippa has its own strong players on the block with shot-blocking forward Chucky Humphries and bruising post player Kaezon Pugh.
Despite the even size matchup, the Bulldogs will strive to maintain their edge in the paint for a third straight game and continue to get second-chance points.
“It's always fun playing against someone the same height as me or taller,” said Westover, who like Humphries is 6-foot-5. “It's more competitive, and I have to keep playing well.”
Though District 9 doesn't have any teams with the Quips' athleticism, Redbank Valley still feels prepared for the challenge because of its nonconference schedule, which included Quad-A Erie Central Tech and Class AAA Meadville, two up-tempo, athletic teams.
While the Bulldogs know they have to be careful with the basketball, they have no intention of slowing the game down too much or stalling on offense.
“Everybody told us before the Erie Central Tech game that we needed to slow the game down, but we went into halftime down by four, 40-36. We were running with them,” Jake Dougherty said. “Other teams have tried to slow them down, and obviously, it hasn't worked. We're still going to look to push the ball, but if nothing's there, we'll pull it out and be patient.”
The Redbank Valley-Aliquippa winner advances to face the winner between West Middlesex and Greensburg Central Catholic in the semifinals Tuesday.
Regardless of whether Redbank Valley can extend its run to that game, the Bulldogs intend make the most of their opportunity to square off with No. 1.
“This season's been unreal. Making history for your school is always something that's special,” Jake Dougherty said. “We had a motto in football — respect all, fear none. We don't fear them, but we definitely respect them. We're just going to go out and play and see how it goes.”