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Lincoln Park accepts villain role in WPIAL basketball

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Who 2 Watch

Preseason Player of the Year

RYAN SKOVRANKO

Lincoln Park

6-7, Jr., F, 14.6 ppg

Players to Watch

JOHN ARCURI

St. Joseph

5-11, Sr., G, 16.0 ppg

BYRON CLIFFORD

Clairton

5-9, Sr., G, 10.9 ppg

JAY FYDA

Quigley Catholic

6-1, Sr., G, 17.2 ppg

NICK MILLER

Western Beaver

6-2, Jr., G, 17.8 ppg

DANNY SAVULCHAK

North Catholic

6-3, Sr., F, 19.5 ppg

Preseason Top 10

1. LINCOLN PARK (26-5)

Defending WPIAL champion graduated D-I recruit Devontae Watson but added new talent.

2. CLAIRTON (13-7)

All five starters could return after football season ends.

3. NORTH CATHOLIC (18-7)

Three starters are back from WPIAL semifinalist, including top scorer Danny Savulchak.

4. MONESSEN (25-4)

All five starters from the Class AA finalist graduated, but new lineup still has talent.

5. OLSH (15-6)

Shooting guard Stefan Archer (14.3 ppg) returns, but leading scorer Andrew Orie graduated.

6. UNION (12-10)

Scotties return all five starters and three double-digit scorers, including Markel Peace (14.8).

7. SEWICKLEY ACAD. (11-13)

Four of five starters are back, but the one missing averaged 17.1 points: Carrington Motley.

8. VINCENTIAN (22-5)

After going 49-7 in past two seasons, Royals must replace 20-point scorer Chris Koryak.

9. IMANI CHRISTIAN (12-6)

Newcomers to the WPIAL are talented, but they're ineligible for a playoff berth this season.

10. WILKINSBURG (17-5)

They've graduated a talented senior class, but drop from AA should keep them contending.

Section Favorites

Section 1

LINCOLN PARK

The reigning WPIAL winners return three starters, making the Leopards the overwhelming favorite in Class A. They lose Division I recruit Devontae Watson to Temple but return junior Ryan Skovranko (6-7), senior Jaylyn Cottrill (6-5) and sophomore Antonio Kellem (6-1).

Section 2

NORTH CATHOLIC

Dave Long, who already has coached three sons and several nephews at North Catholic, has three more nephews on the roster this season. Among them is leading scorer Danny Savulchak. He's one of three starters back for the Trojans from last season's team that reached the WPIAL semifinals. Senior Ryan Kirby (6-2) and junior Pat Reilly (6-0) are the others. Brant Gribbin, who averaged 12.8 points last season, graduated.

Section 3

CLAIRTON

Much like during football season, Clairton and Monessen could be battling one another for this title. The Bears should return all five starters, including four double-digit scorers: Terrish Webb (13.4 ppg), Titus Howard (12.0), Tyler Boyd (11.4) and Byron Clifford (10.9). But while Clairton is off playing football, the new-look Greyhounds are already in the gym. Monessen returns no starters, since senior Chavas Rawlins chose to enroll early at WVU. His brother, Justice, could be one of five junior starters unless a freshman enters the lineup.

Section 4

IMANI CHRISTIAN

Two newcomers to this section could contend for the title: Wilkinsburg, which dropped from Class AA, and Imani Christian, a new program in the WPIAL. Neither team returns a starter from last season, but Imani fields three 6-foot-4 starters: freshman Erick Taylor, senior Troy Simons and senior Elijah Bookert. Khari Hicks, who quarterbacked the football team, will play point guard for coach Jimmy Burnett, who returns to the Saints following a two-year absence. The Imani athletic program faces a postseason ban this season, so a section title is the ultimate goal.

Top high school sports
Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 10:36 p.m.
 

Lincoln Park has been cast as a villain in WPIAL basketball, a starring role the Leopards are willing to perform.

Even if they accept the label with disdain.

“We are the villain,” said Mike Bariski, athletic director and assistant coach. “We wear black uniforms for a reason, because everybody thinks we're the bad guy.”

The performing arts charter school in Beaver County, a public school that draws students and tax money from districts throughout Western Pennsylvania, has been criticized for the number of talented basketball players who enroll there.

The Leopards have quickly taken control of Class A, winning the WPIAL title last season in their third consecutive trip to Palumbo Center. Their roster comes from West Mifflin, Monessen, Bethel Park, Blackhawk and elsewhere, leading to recruiting allegations and their bad-for-the-game label.

Bariski dismisses the accusations.

“I don't know how many times we have been accused of recruiting, and every single time we have been found innocent,” Bariski said. “Our school recruits itself. People hate that. Money is coming out of their district and into our district. We're new and thriving, and some schools are having a hard time staying open. I empathize with that, I do. But that's not our problem.”

Instead, Lincoln Park will try to reach the state championship game for the third consecutive season. And with 6-foot-7 junior Ryan Skovranko among its three returning starters, that's a real possibility. Skovranko, a West Mifflin resident, averaged 14.6 ppg last season, when the Leopards were 26-5 and beat Cornell, 74-57, in the WPIAL championship. Other returning starters from that Palumbo Center victory are sophomore Antonio Kellam (6-1) and senior Jaylyn Cottrill (6-6).

Temple recruit Devontae Watson has graduated, meaning more will be needed from Skovranko, the Leopards' tallest starter. Watson, a 6-10 center, was the team's leading scorer and rebounder.

Elijah Minnie, a junior from Monessen, was expected to be Watson's replacement. The 6-9 Minnie was ruled ineligible by the WPIAL, a decision that was later upheld by the PIAA. But Bariski said Lincoln Park has petitioned the WPIAL for a second hearing to provide new evidence. The paperwork was filed Wednesday with the league, said Bariski, who expected a response by early next week.

Filling the other two starting spots are junior Nate Loedding (5-10) and talented freshman Maverick Rowan (6-5), son of former Beaver Falls star Ron Rowan.

“There's a target on our backs against everybody we play,” Bariski said. “Even when we're playing in the summer league, everybody says: ‘That's Lincoln Park.' ”

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at charlan@tribweb.com.

 

 

 
 


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