The clock hit zero and the Duquesne students rushed onto the court. Tears of joy wept down A’ryah Scott’s face as she and her teammates went to the locker room.
The Lady Dukes basketball team prevailed, beating West Mifflin 25-22 and improving to 1-1 in their first season back since the return of athletics to the Duquesne City school district. Scott was the star, leading her team with 20 points and sparking a feverish 4th quarter comeback that saw the Dukes outscore West Mifflin 12-2.
“I’m just happy that the 7th and 8th graders came back. I’m happy that the school came back and athletics came back. I’m proud of these girls,” said Duquesne coach Latoya Singleton. “These girls never played with each other before this season. It’s gonna be a great season, and they’re only gonna get better.”
Between the raucous crowd, her performance and the ultimate win, it was hard for Scott to imagine such a picturesque game. In fact, there was a time when it was hard for Scott to imagine playing basketball at all. Scott admits that at one point she considered quitting basketball. But when athletics returned to Duquesne, her family urged her to give it a try. It didn’t take long for her to find her love for the sport again.
"A’ryah’s a hard worker. She’s the voice of the team. She works hard and she pushes these girls harder,” Singleton said. “She makes these girls want to play because she works so hard. She’s a lovable person and she’s a great student, also.”
Duquesne took the early 2-0 lead but found itself battling back for almost the entirety of the game. After the first quarter, they trailed 8-5, and at halftime they trailed 18-9. Slowly but surely, though, they battled back. Their defense tightened, cutting the lead to 20-13 after the third quarter. Between Scott’s inside presence and the Dukes’ intense guards hounding ball-handlers, the Titans’ offense sputtered.
“We go over defense a lot in practice — more than offense. Defense is key. We cannot win without defense,” Singleton said. “I push them hard at practice. I make them run so much for this, because there’s only seven of us. They’ve got to run with teams that have 15 to 18 girls.”
The fourth quarter started and the Dukes started to race back. The offense ran through Scott, who attacked the rim and grabbed rebounds with ferocity. She knew she had to take over the game.
“I knew we were close and I just had to push through, even though I was really tired. I knew I had to push through, push through,” Scott said. “That’s what my dad always tells me, ‘push through it and you’re gonna be okay.’”
With a little under three minutes left in the game, Scott hit a layup to give the Dukes a 22-20 lead. The Titans tied it back up shortly after, but Scott answered with a deep jumper. The Dukes stayed strong on defense and Scott hit a free throw to give the Dukes a little cushion. Seconds later, her fellow students rushed the court.
Scott admits that playing in front of a home crowd had her nervous at first. But in that euphoric moment, there was nothing better than having her peers surround her.
“It felt good having everybody huddling around me,” Scott said.
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