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HANGING TOUGH: Redbank Valley Gives Aliquippa All It Can Handle, But Falls in PIAA Class 2A Quarterfinals

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. (EYT/D9) — During a timeout with a little more than a minute on the clock in the fourth quarter, the three seniors on the Redbank Valley boys basketball team — Owen Clouse, Mason Clouse and Ty Carrier — waved to their fans in the stands.

Teammates embraced them. They gave coach Emmanuel Marshall, who was also in his last game, big bear hugs.

It was the end, but the Bulldogs acquitted themselves well against District 7 champion Aliquippa in a game few gave Redbank Valley a chance to compete in, let alone win.

(Pictured above, Redbank Valley’s Mason Clouse, right, soars in the air with Aliquippa’s Cameron Lindsey during the opening tip)

The final on the scoreboard at Slippery Rock University’s Morrow Field House read 68-44 in favor of the Quips, but it was much closer than that. Redbank Valley trailed by just five at 40-35 after a 3-pointer by Kieran Fricko with three minutes remaining in the third.

But Aliquippa ramped up the intensity in the fourth and the Bulldogs wore down in the loss in the PIAA Class 2A quarterfinals on Saturday afternoon.

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

“All of our guys did a great job,” Marshall said. “I’m so proud of them. When it was down to five, we thought, ‘Hey, maybe we can steal one.’ But they just came with defensive pressure and got some layups out of the deal. It’s hard to combat that.”

Redbank Valley never led and trailed 18-5 out of the gate.

Aliquippa was red hot from the field during the first four minutes of the game, going 6-of-7 from the floor — and 3-of-3 from 3-point range.

The Quips led 30-13 in the second quarter when the tide turned.

The Bulldogs chipped away, getting the deficit down to 10 at the half at 34-24 and then making a run in the third to get within two possessions at 40-35.

Redbank Valley had the momentum.

“It felt so close,” said Owen Clouse, “but so far.”

Aliquippa coach Nick Lackovich had seen enough.

When asked what the message to his team was during the media timeout while clinging to a five-point lead, Lackovich smiled.

“You can’t print it,” he said.

“We were sleepwalking,” the coach added. “We were erratic offensively. Fortunately, we play defense as well as we do. That kind of kept them at bay.”

Aliquippa also dominated on the glass, getting several second- and third-chance opportunities while limiting Redbank Valley to just one.

The Quips also came at the Bulldogs with wave after wave thanks to a deep bench.

By the fourth quarter, Redbank had spent so much energy staying close it had little left in the tank.

“We were gassed, man,” Marshall said. “We were so tired, and you know, that’s what it takes to try to compete and run with a team like that. They have good subs coming in off the bench, and we did our best. We had it to five and then it just kind of went away.”

And it went away quickly.

One blink and the lead had mushroomed to 54-40. Another blink and it was 62-41 at the fourth-quarter media timeout.

“That’s what usually happens with us,” Lackovich said. “It escalates real fast and spirals out of control. We just turned up the effort. It’s a small line, man; just a little bit more effort makes a big difference.”

That’s when reality sent in for the Bulldogs. A memorable season was about to end.

Redbank Valley set a boys basketball record for wins in a season with 24. They added a regular-season Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference title and a District 9 Class 2A championship.

“We put two more banners up,” said Mason Clouse. “I’m proud of the guys.”

Fricko scored 15 to lead the Bulldogs. He also handled Aliquippa’s pressure well. So did Breckin Minich, who added eight for Redbank.

But Aliquippa was just too much, inside and outside.

Josh Pratt led all scorers with 25 points. Tiqwai Hayes came off the bench to score 13. Quentin Goode added nine and Cameron Lindsey, who didn’t play in the second round on Wednesday, also added nine and was big on the boards.

“It was just the little things, the technical things, like not holding the box out,” Marshall said. “Layups and just playing confident. But that’s easy to say and hard to do.

“Bottom line is they’re a good team,” Marshall added. “They’re gonna be hard to beat. We played a good game, maybe not our best game, but it is what it is. We had a great season.”

(Owen Clouse hugs Redbank Valley coach Emmanuel Marshall late in the loss to Aliquippa)

The outcome wasn’t what Redbank wanted, but the way they played softened the blow of the loss.

“They’re a really quick team,” Carrier said. “We hung with them. I’m proud of our guys.”

For Marshall, it is also a bittersweet farewell.

He is stepping down as coach.

“I’ve been coaching them since the second grade. They’re my second-graders,” Marshall said. “Now they’re adults going out into the adult world and it was just fun to hang around a little bit and be a part of their senior year. I’m grateful for the opportunity.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.