HERSHEY, Pa. - Where is the worst place to be while your teammates try to capture your school's first state championship against an undefeated foe?
That's where Vinny Dalessandro found himself after a couple of early fouls as Conwell-Egan battled Aliquippa for PIAA Class AA glory Saturday afternoon at the Giant Center in Hershey.
As a result, the 6-foot-7 junior forward appeared apprehensive on defense and finished with just two points in the Eagles' 62-51 victory.
However, his blocked shot in the fourth quarter secured a two-point edge and started the decisive 12-3 run.
LaPri McCray-Pace grabbed the loose ball and fired an outlet pass to Stevie Jordan, who converted an easy layup. McCray-Pace and Jordan led the Eagles with 22 and 21 points.
"I thought that was a big-time play for us," Dalessandro said. "I saw the kid in the lane and I was feeling it and timing the shot."
Before that, the consensus was that Dalessandro feared the referees' whistle.
"At first he was afraid of getting his third [foul], and we were like, 'Yo, just play, just play,' " McCray-Pace said.
To make matters worse, Dalessandro had been warned by sophomore teammate Dan Green.
"Before the game, Dan came up to me and said, 'Vinny, be smart with your fouls because last game they were calling it tight with you,' " Dalessandro said.
After Conwell-Egan surged to a 31-15 halftime lead, the Quips (29-1) won the third quarter, 20-8, taking advantage of eight offensive rebounds.
"He had been aggressive," head coach Frank Sciolla said. "But then he got scared in the second half because he got those foul calls. I think he didn't want to get another one and then come out."
Aliquippa's Charles Humphries, a 6-foot-5 junior, had crashed the boards with aplomb before Dalessandro swatted his putback attempt with C-E clinging to a 50-48 lead.
The Quips would get no closer. Instead, the Eagles claimed the championship they coveted.
"People doubted us because the other team was 29-0," Dalessandro said. "But ... we were well-prepared, practiced every day, came out and executed."