It wasn't that long ago when Aliquippa's boys basketball program was winning WPIAL titles and competing for state championships.
The Quips, however, recently fell from grace ... or at least the spotlight.
Despite still qualifying for the WPIAL playoffs the past three years, Aliquippa has not advanced past the first round and hasn't posted a winning record since 2009. The Quips won four WPIAL championships between 2003-07, last winning back-to-back crowns in 2006 and '07.
"Our motto since Day One has been that we want to return the swagger back to Aliquippa basketball," first-year Quips coach Nick Lackovich said. "We kind of got away from winning the last few years. We know all about the tradition here and we hope to get this program back to where it was."
After knocking off No. 5 Neshannock, 61-47, last Friday night, Aliquippa improved to 4-0 in Section 2-AA and 6-3 overall. All three of the Quips losses were against Class AAA opponents. They lost two non-section games against Central Valley and one against Ambridge Area.
"We're playing really hard and very well on defense, but there's always room for improvement," Lackovich said. "We've still been able to hold some good teams down. Neshannock entered the game averaging 80 points and we held them to 47. We held Central Valley to 44 points [in a 44-40 loss]. We don't hold the ball or sit back in a zone [defense], either.
"Our defensive effort most nights has been good enough to win. We just need to score more. Each day the guys are buying into what we're trying to do more and more.
"That's been one of the biggest reasons for our success."
A 1979 graduate of Aliquippa and former long-time assistant coach at his alma mater, Lackovich spent the past three seasons as Doug Biega's assistant at rival Beaver Falls.
"Being at Beaver Falls the past few years I had been watching [Aliquippa] from a distance," Lackovich said. "I knew the pieces were there and I knew we needed to put the right pieces in place in order to succeed.
"I wouldn't have come here if I didn't think we had the ability to compete at a high level."
Senior Shawnqueze Adamson, a 6-foot-2 guard, 5-9 junior guard Darrien Fields, 6-5 junior guard/forward Patrick Anderson, 5-8 sophomore guard Jassir Jordan and 6-5 sophomore guard/forward Charles Humphries make up Lackovich's starting five.
Jordan has been averaging 15 points a game, while Humphries, who scored a team-high 16 points against Neshannock, followed with an average of 13 points.
Senior guard Jyier Turner has been used as the Quips' sixth man, while 6-2 freshman forward Robert Crute and 6-2 sophomore Kaezon Pugh also have added depth off the bench.
"We're still a young team," Lackovich said. "At times we have three sophomores and a freshman on the floor. Everyone is helping and playing their roles.
"We're not quite where we want to be, but each day we're getting better."
Aliquippa continues Section 2-AA action tonight against Riverside then plays Mohawk Friday before facing No. 2 Beaver Falls Tuesday. Beaver Falls has won six consecutive section titles since the Quips last captured a section crown in 2007.
"We're trying to win a section championship," Lackovich said. "I think we opened some eyes against Neshannock to show that we might be players in this thing.
"I know it's a cliché but I've been stressing one game at a time. We're so young that we need to focus on improving in one practice, so it leads to another good practice and it will hopefully lead to a good game. Then we can go from there."
While trying to rebuild a program, Lackovich believes this team has enough talent to push for a playoff spot as well as help make Aliquippa a regular WPIAL title contender in the near future.
"The maturing process will be the biggest thing for us," Lackovich said. "We have a lot of talented sophomores who haven't won anything or played on the big stage with the lights on. The quicker we grow up, the more able we'll be able to compete down the road.
"We expect to win championships here. If we get a break here and there, I think we can do that."