Vincentian states its case by beating Lincoln Park

| Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Vincentian boys basketball team walked into Palumbo Center on Friday night with a little chip on their shoulders. The Royals left with big gold medals around their necks.

Despite posting the best record in Class A during the regular season, Vincentian was given the No. 4 seed in the WPIAL playoffs. The Royals were surprised, but no one complained.

"There were three great teams ahead of us," coach George Yokitis said. "We were glad the papers kept picking against us, and we did use that (disrespect) card a little bit."

No one is overlooking Vincentian now. Against a physical Lincoln Park team, the Royals' tall and versatile lineup didn't back down and never trailed in a 67-61 victory in the WPIAL Class A championship game. It is Vincentian's first WPIAL title in boys basketball.

"It was unbelievable," senior John Bray said. "I still can't explain it. But we worked all season, and the hard work finally paid off."

Bray worked twice as hard for this. The 6-foot-4 forward lost 25 pounds in the offseason to make himself a more complete player -- which was clear against the Leopards. As a threat inside and outside, Bray gave Lincoln Park matchup problems all night and scored a team-high 21 points, including four win-sealing free throws in the final minute.

Another big forward for the Royals, 6-4 senior Adam Dian, was a force all over the court, making a pair of 3-pointers and finishing with 13 points.

"John Bray is the most wonderful kid you'd ever meet," said Yokitis, who has known Bray since he was a fifth grader at St. Sebastian. "He just totally committed to the game."

Lincoln Park, the No. 3 seed, is settling for silver for the second year in a row. Last year, the Leopards lost on a buzzer beater to Sewickley Academy, making this a feeling coach Mark Javens unfortunately is familiar with.

"It's pretty disappointing," he said. "We talked about doing all of the little things in the big games -- opportunities to take charges, opportunities to get loose balls. It's disappointing for the kids because I know how they feel."

The Leopards' stars -- 6-10 center Devontae Watson and senior guard Chaquille Pratt -- posted impressive performances. Watson had a game-high 22 points, and Pratt finished with 19.

From the opening tip, Vincentian was difficult to stop beneath the basket. The Royals led, 16-9, after the first quarter and stretched their advantage to 10 with a 9-2 run early in the second.

Lincoln Park followed that with a 7-0 run to creep within 25-22. But Bray, who had 13 points in the half, scored two quick baskets, and Chris Koryak capitalized on a turnover in the final two minutes to help Vincentian go into halftime with a 31-22 lead.

The Leopards closed the advantage to two points in the third quarter, but the Royals again pulled away to take a nine-point advantage into the fourth.

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