State basketball finals next stop for Leopards
March 18, 2014
By Jim Equels Jr. Times Sports Correspondent Timesonline.com
GREENSBURG — It's said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
A year ago, when Lincoln Park met Bishop Carroll in the PIAA quarterfinals, the Leopards jumped out to a 20-point lead in the first half and appeared to be cruising to victory. But by game's end, Lincoln Park had to sweat out a final shot by Bishop Carroll and hold on for a nail-biting 86-84 victory.
That being the case, it appeared to be déjà-vu on Tuesday night when Lincoln Park once again met Bishop Carroll, this time in the PIAA semifinal, and jumped out to a comfortable 39-13 lead at halftime.
Lincoln Park remembered well the history between the two teams that it learned a year ago - and ultimately, it was Bishop Carroll which proved to be doomed.
Lincoln Park kept its foot on the accelerator this time, and it is taking the Leopards all the way to Hershey. Lincoln Park scored early and often, scoring the first 15 points of the game before Bishop Carroll got on the board, and ultimately induced the mercy rule as the Leopards cruised to a 70-28 victory.
With the win, Lincoln Park improved to 29-1 and advanced to the PIAA Class A championship game for the third time in the past four seasons. The Leopards will meet Math, Civics and Science on Friday at 2 p.m. at the Giant Center in Hershey. Bishop Carroll lost for the first time this season and finished 28-1.
"Last year was definitely in the back of our minds," said Lincoln Park center Elijah Minnie, who finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. "When we came in the locker room at halftime, one of the first things coach said to us was remember what happened last year."
For Lincoln Park on Tuesday, March Madness became March Mavness, as Bishop Carroll didn't have an answer for the Leopards' Maverick Rowan, who finished with 32 points.
"I've said it before - Mav is Mav," Lincoln Park coach Mark Javens said. "He does so many things well and can put the ball in the hoop in a variety of ways."
Lincoln Park essentially stamped its ticket to Hershey in the first quarter when the Leopards kept Bishop Carroll scoreless for the first 7:42 of the game and took a 15-2 lead. Lincoln Park forced five Bishop Carroll turnovers, while 6-foot-9 Elijah Minnie blocked two shots, including one that sailed over the media table at courtside.
It was the second time in the PIAA tournament that Lincoln Park has held an opponent to under 30 points.
"We wanted to come out and play hard and we just kept it up," Rowan said. "Last year was in the back of our minds, so even though we were feeling confident, we didn't let up."
Friday's game in Hershey will be a chance at redemption for the Leopards' Antonio Kellem and Ryan Skovranko, both of whom started in 2012 when Lincoln Park lost to Constitution, 58-49, in the PIAA title game.
"This has been the goal for Antonio and me since we played in it the first time." Skovranko said. "We're excited to get back and have another chance to win it. This has been our goal from day one."
"The first time we were there it was scary," Kellem said. "It won't be like that this time. We know what to expect, and I don't see the guys who haven't been there getting rattled. They've all played in big games. Our goal has always been to win the state championship and now we're one win away."
The trip to Hershey will be the third for Javens, who won a national championship as the coach at Community College of Beaver County but has yet to win a state title on the high school level.
"There's not going to be any of that third time's a charm stuff," Javens said. "Our team's going to go out there and do the things they've done all year to get us to this point. If they do that, I like our chances."
About Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School
Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School (www.lppacs.org) is a Pennsylvania public school providing a state-approved academic program and pre-professional training for grades 7-12 in music, theater, dance, creative writing, health science arts and media arts. The school enrolls students from more than 65 surrounding school districts.
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