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Class A boys basketball preview: Lincoln Park fell short of WPIAL, PIAA titles last year but again is favored

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who 2 watch

preseason player of the year

ELIJAH MINNIE

Lincoln Park

6-9, Sr., F

21.0 ppg

players to watch

CLINTELL GILLASPIE

Monessen

6-1, Sr., G, 16.3 ppg

DANE JACKSON

Cornell

6-1, Jr., G, 21.6 ppg

CAMERON JOHNSON

OLSH

6-6, Sr., G, 16.0 ppg

MAVERICK ROWAN

Lincoln Park

6-6, So., G, 22.9 ppg

RYAN WOLF

Vincentian Academy

5-10, Jr., G, 21.3 ppg

preseason top 10

1. Lincoln Park (22-7)

Loaded with height and talent, Leopards are favorites to win the WPIAL title ... and PIAA?

2. Vincentian (26-2)

All-section G Tony DiNardo graduated, but Royals return much of title-winning lineup.

3. OLSH (19-5)

Chargers return four starters, but route to winning section includes facing Lincoln Park.

4. North Catholic (16-7)

With three returning starters, this group wants to celebrate NC's final season on Troy Hill.

5. Monessen (10-14)

All-section G Clintell Gillaspie among five returning starters.

6. Clairton (17-8)

Top six players are gone from last season's team.

7. Carmichaels (17-5)

Senior G/F Brandon Lawless (6-foot-3, 21 ppg) leads three returning starters for Mikes.

8. Sewickley Acad. (8-13)

All-section G Kennan Hickton (10 ppg) among 10 seniors on experienced Panthers roster.

9. Wilkinsburg (13-10)

Starting guards Isaiah Pete and D'shawn Adair return from WPIAL playoff lineup.

10. Imani Christian (11-7)

All five starters are gone, but Imani has junior Makis Rivera and height: three 6-4 or taller.

section favorites

section 1

Lincoln Park

With a number of D1 college recruits, the Leopards are clear favorites to win the section title. Their toughest challenge could be OLSH, which has a 6-6 guard and an unfriendly home court for visitors.

section 2

Vincentian

Like many recent seasons, the section title could be a race between Vincentian Academy and North Catholic. The early edge goes to the Royals, who return six of their top eight players from last season's lineup that won the WPIAL title. That list includes junior Ryan Wolf and senior Jim Kenna, who had 24 points and 11 rebounds at Palumbo Center. But Vincentian lacks size. North Catholic returns senior forward Dominic Robb (6-5) but won't have two other returning starters, Ryan Kirby and P.J. Fulmore, until football season ends.

section 3

Monessen

The Greyhounds return all five starters from last season's team that reached the WPIAL quarterfinals: seniors Clintell Gillaspie, Justice Rawlins, Tyler Yuille and Javon Brown, and sophomore Lavelle Rush. Returning junior Noah Rullo also contributed for a team that started 0-7 but won eight of its final 13. Clairton, the WPIAL runner-up, features senior JoJuan Bray (6-2) and sophomore Aaron Mathews (6-5) with coach Matt Geletko entering his second season.

section 4

WILKINSBURG

Eugene Wilson, a 1997 graduate who starred for Wilkinsburg, takes over as coach of a Tigers team that reached the WPIAL quarterfinals last season. Two starting guards return from that lineup; senior D'shawn Adair and junior guard Isaiah Pete. But they also have some young talent, including freshman forward Dreymar Everette (6-4). Last season's section winner, Imani Christian, is ineligible for the playoffs but could contend for the section along with St. Joseph (9-14).

Top high school sports
Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 10:06 p.m.
 

If anyone on Lincoln Park's basketball roster has forgotten how last season ended, an early-season refresher has been scheduled.

The Leopards will bus three hours to Elk County to face the same Johnsonburg team that beat them in March, just one game short of the state championship.

“We have some unfinished business,” said Lincoln Park athletic director and assistant coach Mike Bariski, who scheduled the Dec. 17 game at Johnsonburg.

Just like this season's team, tall-and-talented Lincoln Park began last season as preseason favorites to win the WPIAL Class A title and reach the state championship.

But it accomplished neither.

Lincoln Park lost to Clairton in the WPIAL semifinals 71-70 and then was eliminated from the state semifinals by tiny Johnsonburg, 59-53. Those are losses the Leopards won't forget, because their coaches won't let them.

“Every day I say something to our guys about Johnsonburg or Clairton,” Bariski said, “and you can see the fire in their eyes.”

With four starters 6-foot-4 or taller, Lincoln Park looks more like a college team than a Class A school. The tallest is senior Elijah Minnie, a 6-9 forward, but teammates Ryan Skovranko (6-7), Maverick Rowan (6-6) and Chris Pipkin (6-4) form a tall lineup few Class AAAA schools could match.

It's taller than most any lineup coach Mark Javens fielded at Community College of Beaver County, where he won a junior college national championship.

Junior guard Antonio Kellum (6-2) is the fifth starter. A key addition will be freshman point guard Nellie Cummings (5-9), who scored 50 as a Midland eighth grader, Bariski said.

“This is probably our most athletic team from top to bottom,” Bariski said. “We have four guys that all have been looked at or have some type of offer from a Division I school.”

That includes Rowan, a sophomore guard who verbally committed to Pitt. Rowan was Lincoln Park's leading scorer last season when he averaged 22.9 points.

Minnie averaged 21.0 points last season, and Skovranko and Kellum are Division I recruits.

Pipkin, a whose father Chris once led the WPIAL in scoring at New Brighton, joins the Leopards.

With so much talent, the goal remains a state title. Playing Johnsonburg is a reminder that nothing's guaranteed, Bariski said.

“I told them we'll play out in the backyard if that's where you want to play,” Bariski said, “and you can even bring the same three officials you had at Clarion last season.”

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

 

 

 
 


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