Lincoln Park dominant in WPIAL championship victory over Monessen
Top-seeded Lincoln Park (25-1) showboated its way to its second WPIAL Class A title in the last three seasons, defeating No. 3 Monessen, 85-41, at Duquesne's A.J. Palumbo Center Friday. The 44-point margin of victory was the largest in a boys WPIAL championship game.
Don't expect the Leopards to apologize to anyone for such a lopsided score.
For a team that's been so often scrutinized after being upset in the semifinals of last season's WPIAL playoffs, that's just the kind of statement Lincoln Park was out to make.
“Lincoln Park's here and we're not going to back down from any team,” senior Elijah Minnie said. “There was all this talk that maybe we'd get upset. The main thing is we came and we got the victory.”
Minnie, a 6-foot-9 forward, posted a dominant stat line of 20 points, 16 rebounds and 12 blocks against the Greyhounds (20-6), whose tallest player is 6-2.
Monessen coach Joe Salvino was vocal leading up to the game about his frustrations that Lincoln Park, a charter school, can draw athletes from various districts — most notably Minnie, a Monessen resident.
“I have no Division I ballplayers on my squad. They have like six,” Salvino said. “If we have to play by the rules then that's what happens.”
Salvino's comments served as added motivation for the Leopards.
“When we read that newspaper we all looked at each other,” Minnie said. “We went to our coach's office, and he read it to us right before we came to this game. He said, ‘If that doesn't make your (rear ends) play hard, then I don't know what will.' ”
Despite the continual jeers from Monessen fans, the Leopards stuck to their own idea of entertaining basketball.
After falling behind 7-0 to the start the game, Lincoln Park outscored Monessen, 47-14, the rest of the half.
“If we could have quit after the seven-point lead, we could've been fine,” said Salvino with a laugh.
Lincoln Park coach Mark Javens had a laugh of his own when asked about the quick Monessen start.
“We wanted to give the crowd a little bit of an exciting moment there before we actually put it on Monessen,” he said. “We're not going to do anything different. We're going to come at you with everything, offensively and defensively.”
Minnie had to be helped off the court after a collision with Monessen senior Clintell Gillaspie in the second quarter with his team leading, 38-21.
He checked back into the game moments later, and announced his return with a high-flying reverse dunk off of a rebound.
A stretch in the third quarter saw Minnie erase four straight Monessen possessions with blocks that led to Lincoln Park baskets. Lincoln Park sophomore guard Maverick Rowan, who finished with a game-high 26 points, said Minnie's Monessen residence was on his teammates' minds.
“We wanted to come out and play hard and beat them pretty bad for Elijah,” Rowan said, “and that's what we did.”
Both teams will advance to the PIAA playoffs, with first-round games starting March 7.
Senior guard Antonio Kellem was the other Lincoln Park scorer in double figures with 16 points.
Senior guard Javon Brown scored 10 points to lead the Greyhounds. Gillaspie, Monessen's regular season leading scorer, scored just seven points after tallying 34 in Monessen's record setting 110-99 victory over Vincentian Academy Tuesday.
Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.