Minnie paces Lincoln Park in PIAA opening-round rout of Johnsonburg

Chris Harlan
| Friday, March 7, 2014, 10:21 p.m.

This time, Lincoln Park made certain there was no upset.

“We definitely had a chip on our shoulder,” said Elijah Minnie, who had 30 points and 19 rebounds in Friday night's 96-47 first-round victory over Johnsonburg in the PIAA Class A playoffs at North Hills.

A semifinal loss to Johnsonburg kept Lincoln Park from reaching the state championship last season. A 49-point blowout over the third-place team from District 9 will help ease whatever angst was left.

“They had that taste of Hersheypark,” Minnie said, “and that really hurt us.”

Maverick Rowan had 32 points with five 3-pointers for Lincoln Park (26-1), which had a 28-point halftime lead and a fourth-quarter running clock while ahead by more than 40.

“We both were just clicking,” Minnie said.

Antonio Kellem and Ryan Skovranko each added 13 points. The Leopards made 10 shots from the 3-point arc, including three by Skovranko.

Cole Peterson and Kevin Benson both had 10 points for Johnsonburg (21-5), which had two starters listed taller than 5-foot-10. Benson is 6-4, and Zane Hodgdon is 6-5. Lincoln Park had three starters 6-7 or taller, and it showed. Minnie (6-9) dominated in the paint, with dunks and offensive rebounds. His coach asked for 20 points and 20 rebounds from Minnie, but was just fine with 30 and 19.

“Elijah really played within himself,” Lincoln Park coach Mark Javens said. “He was the recipient of a lot of good looks and he finished well today.”

WPIAL champion Lincoln Park will face Forbes Road (17-8), a 46-40 winner over Bishop Guilfoyle, on Tuesday in the second round.

The Leopards entered these state playoffs with mostly the same players but with a different focus than last season's lineup that lost 59-53 to Johnsonburg. Along with its unmatched scoring talent, Lincoln Park won Friday with some added emphasis on defense and rebounds.

“We're a real different team,” Javens said. “... A year later definitely makes a difference.”

Johnsonburg's two leading scorers had averaged more than 20 points each this season. But Peterson (20.7 ppg) and Cameron Grumley (21.5) combined for just 19 points.

“We knew what we did wrong and we corrected those mistakes,” Minnie said. “We played defense how we were supposed to ... because last year they destroyed us and our defense was terrible. This year we stepped up.”

Tied at 13-13, Lincoln Park scored the next 17 points to pull ahead. Skovranko and Minnie sparked the run with back-to-back 3-pointers in the final 20 seconds of the first quarter. Johnsonburg went more than 5 minutes without a basket. Lincoln Park led 54-26 at halftime.

The teams also met Dec. 17 at Johnsonburg and Lincoln Park won that regular-season rematch.

“Even though we played them during the regular already and we won,” Minnie said, “this was different.”

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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