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Brown, Cummings guide Lincoln Park back to championship game

| Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, 11:57 p.m.

The protective mask stayed in place only a few minutes before Evan Brown tossed it to the bench.

The gauze stuffed in his nostrils didn't last either.

The Lincoln Park senior might have a broken nose, and said he won't know for sure for a few days, but that's not the pain that drove him Monday night. For almost a year, Brown and his teammates have suffered with the sting from last year's WPIAL championship loss.

“I don't really want to talk about it,” he said of that nagging pain. “I just know it's not going to be like that this year.”

With a chance for relief in reach, Brown ignored his injured nose Monday and scored 28 points for an 81-61 victory over Shady Side Academy in a WPIAL Class 3A semifinal at North Allegheny. Leopards teammate Nelly Cummings led with 31 points, but the high-scoring Bowling Green recruit didn't shoulder the load by himself.

“My confidence is through the roof now,” said Brown, a 6-foot-3 guard committed to LaRoche who injured his nose during a quarterfinal game against Seton-La Salle on Thursday. “Every time I catch the ball I look to score instead of pass.”

Cummings and Brown combined for 29 points in the second quarter as Lincoln Park outscored Shady Side, 34-18, in that eight-minute stretch. Tied 15-15 after the first quarter, Lincoln Park quickly led by 16 at half.

“It's so nice to have Evan doing this, especially at this time,” Cummings said. “Playoff Evan is a bad dude.”

The victory carries No. 1 seed Lincoln Park (21-4) back to Petersen Events Center for the WPIAL Class 3A final at 9 p.m. Thursday. There a year ago, Lincoln Park lost to Aliquippa. Waiting for the Leopards this time is No. 3 seed Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (20-5).

“It feels so good to get back there,” Cummings said. “Since the buzzer sounded at Petersen Event Center last year, we've wanted it so bad. That's all we grinded for. It's just redemption.”

After just four points in the first quarter, Cummings heated up in the second and scored 18. He missed eight of his first 10 shots, but his six of his next eight in one first-half stretch.

At one point he scored eight straight points for his team as the Leopards showed their speed. Lincoln Park led 38-26 after his steal and layup 3 minutes before half.

“Nelly got hot, they started to make a run in the second quarter and we just kind of lost faith,” Shady Side coach David Vadnais said. “We lost shape on offense. Once they started going, we had a tough time getting it back.”

Etai Groff led Shady Side Academy (18-7) with 18 points, Kirf Olander had 16 and Grady Munroe added 14.

Lincoln Park led 49-33 at halftime, and outscored Shady Side Academy 23-12 in the third behind its two senior guards.

Brown scored five points in the first quarter, 11 in the second and 12 in the third, before Lincoln Park intentionally slowed in the fourth with a 20-point lead.

“When I catch fire, I catch fire,” Brown said. “Today, once I made the first one, I was like: ‘It's going to be a good game.' ”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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