Simulating an opponent in practice is not the same as encountering those same strengths in game situations.
Kennedy Catholic High boys’ basketball team worked against a myriad of defenders during the last 2 weeks in preparation for Lincoln Park Charter’s three quarter-court traps. But you have to experience the Leopards’ length live in order to fully appreciate it.
Or dread it.
Lincoln Park coerced the Golden Eagles into 23 turnovers Friday night en route to a 54-45 PIAA Class A playoffs opening-round win at Farrell’s E.J. McCluskey Gymnasium.
“I thought we turned the ball over way too much — unforced errors,’ admitted 4th-year KC head coach Rick Mancino. “And on top of it all, too — and I’ve been there as a player — when you miss shots, the game’s tough. We had some open shots the first half, but we just missed ’em (6 for 20). That’s just part of basketball.”
“I always say that you can’t simulate a press in practice like what you see in a game, you know?” rhetorically asked veteran Lincoln Park head coach Mark Javens. “So no matter if they break it, you have to stick to your guns, and we’re not gonna change the way that we play. We’ll make adjustments as we go on, but basically we’re gonna play the same way we’ve played all year long.”
The teams were tied at 12 through 8 minutes. After a handful of lead changes Lincoln Park led 20-19 with 4:03 remaining to intermission.
But from that point the Golden Eagles endured a drought of more than 7 minutes. The Leopards led 24-19 by the break and 29-20 with 4:49 left in the 3rd period when Kennedy’s Mac Hartman hit a free throw.
Kennedy Catholic closed within 6 on a pair of 4th-frame occasions — the latter (45-39) with 3:19 left on Chris James’ drive. But the Leopards’ lead extended to 10 in about 42 seconds as 6-foot-9 Elijah Minnie made a free throw, then followed with a traditional 3-point play on a slam dunk and subsequent freebie.
Four free throws followed, evenly divided between Antonio Kellum and Minnie, as the Leopards led 53-39 with 2:10 to play.
The Golden Eagles eased no closer than the final margin.
“We wanted to be close in the fourth quarter, but we just couldn’t make some of those shots,” Mancino lamented. “Then when we did make a shot, we gave up an easy shot or turned the ball over.”
Back on Jan. 23 in Midland, Lincoln Park outlasted KC, 70-62. But in Friday’s rematch miscues and missed shots (18 for 43, 41.8 percent) were too much to overcome.
“That’s all we’ve worked on for the last two weeks, actually. We knew that’s what they do,” Mancino admitted. “I’ll be honest, when they went ‘man,’ that was probably the first time in about 15 games I scouted them that I saw them play ‘man.’
“But the press and the traps, we were ready for them, we knew what they’d be doing,” Mancino continued. “They caused turnovers, and ... that’s what we worked on and worked on. We’d put nine, 10 guys on defense, pressuring all over the floor at practice ’cause we knew we couldn’t turn the ball over.
“But it was just turnover after turnover.”
“We’ve played that all year long, whether it’s half-court or full court, and there’s some options off it that we like to throw at teams that already have seen us play,” Javens related. “Kennedy Catholic did a nice job when they played us the first time. But we watched it on film — we didn’t play our best; I’m not sure if they played their best the first time around — so we knew it was gonna be a good game.
“Coming up there, first round of states, very formidable opponent. It’s always nice to get a ‘cupcake’ the first round,’ Javens continued, adding, “but they’re no cupcake. So we’ll take the win, and we’re looking forward to the second round.”
Lincoln Park (20-6) was paced by Minnie’s 19-point, 12-rebound double-double and Maverick Rowan, who recorded 14 points and a half-dozen caroms. Also, Ryan Skovranko handed out 4 assists. The Leopards’ 18-for-52 shooting (34.6) was worse than KC’s, but Lincoln Park posted 18-for-29 free-throw shooting and committed only 13 miscues, 5 after intermission.
Keying Kennedy Catholic (17-7) were Jeffrey Thompkins, who tallied a team-high 14 points before fouling out with 4:06 left, James (13 points) and Case Western Reserve University-bound Hartman, who had 11 points and a game-high 9 caroms. Hartman and Jimmy D’Onofrio divided 8 assists, also.
Thompkins, Hartman, D’Onofrio, Arlen Brewer and A.J. Weldon are KC’s seniors.
“ ... I probably saw Mac and Jimmy more than their families,” Mancino related. “All our players are good kids, and that’s one thing we’re fortunate with. They’re all gonna do well when they get out. ... They’re what we want at Kennedy, they’re great kids. It’s one of those things that not’s gonna hit you until you’re collecting uniforms.”
Kennedy became the 3rd consecutive Mercer County club ousted from the PIAA playoffs by Lincoln Park, which eliminated West Middlesex the past 2 years.
“I told our guys, in sports, unfortunately, only one team’s smiling at the end of the year,” Mancino said.
“Obviously, the last two year’s we’ve made it to the finals,” Javens said, “We’ve met some pretty good teams from Philadelphia. But I think we have the talent to do it. But just because you have talent doesn’t mean you’re gonna win. ... We always talk about the three S’s — soft, selfish and not so smart. If (the Leopards) come out and play hard, play unselfish, and smart, we can get some things done.”
Note: Rowan is the son of Beaver Falls’ Ron Rowan, who matriculated at the University of Notre Dame and ultimately played at St. John’s University. ... KC converted 5 of only 9 free-throw tries. ... Brewer also was DQ’d on personals, and Hartman finished with 4. .. The Leopards were whistled for a dozen fouls.
PIAA CLASS A PLAYOFFS
LINCOLN PARK 12 12 14 16 54
KENNEDY 12 7 10 16 45
LINCOLN PARK — Rowan 5-4-5-14, Minnie 6-7-10-19, Skovrarko 3-0-0-6, Cottrill 1-1-2-3, Kellum 2-4-6-0, Tomassetti 1-2-6-4. Totals: 18-18-29-54.
KENNEDY CATHOLIC — Thompkins 5-2-4-14, James 5-2-3-13, Hartman 5-1-2-11, D’Onofrio 1-0-0-3, Zachar 0-0-0-0, Brewer 2-0-0-4, Wassil 0-0-0-0. 3-pt. goals: Thompkins 2, D’Onofrio 1, James 1. Totals: 18-5-9-45.
Simulating an opponent in practice is not the same as encountering those same strengths in game situations.
Hickory, Mercer, KC girls PIAA playoff boxes
Who: Hickory (25-0) vs. Greater Johnstown (11-14).
What: PIAA Playoffs, 1st round.
When: 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Slippery Rock University.
Shannonhouse's Steelers set for statewide stage
With the approaching spring, a young man’s fancy turns to ... what else? The PIAA playoffs. And when Shenango Valley scholastic basketball aficionados think of the postseason they think of Farrell.
Recently at E.J. McCluskey Gymnasium, the banners above were blowing in the breeze — ’52 ... ’54 ... ’56 ... ’59 ... ’60 ... ’69 ... ’72 — swaying as sprinting players created a vacuum of air rising from the floor. Melodramatic maybe, but there’s a feeling at Farrell that harkens back to the heyday when playoff success was a rite of passage.
Breese eyes repeat at state mat tourney
There is no doubt that winning a state championship in wrestling is a difficult thing to do. Winning two is even tougher.
“There’s a target on your chest,” pointed out Lakeview High coach Tom Tingley in preseason this year, referring to his star wrestler Sam Breese who won a state heavyweight crown as a junior last year.
Obviously that target hasn’t bothered the Sailors big man who is a perfect 32-0 this season as he attempts to become only the 12th Mercer County matman to win multiple titles.
WRESTLING NOTEBOOK: It's a young group of county matmen headed to state
THERE’S definitely a youth movement in Mercer County wrestling as demonstrated by the group of 11 matmen who are advancing to the PIAA State Class AA Championships on Thursday.
Eight of the locals are underclassmen. The only seniors are Lakeview’s Sam Breese (285), Reynolds’ Levi Stoyer (145) and Jamestown’s Mohamed Messai (182).
Breese and Stoyer are the only returning state place-winners. Breese, who has verbally committed to Kent State University to wrestle next season, won the heavyweight class and is seeking a second gold medal. Stoyer placed 7th at 145 and wants to climb much higher on the medals stand.
Kennedy boys forfeit win, are out of playoffs
The PIAA basketball playoffs do not begin until Friday, but Mercer County already lost a team.
Kennedy Catholic High disclosed Monday the discovery of an academically-ineligible player, who competed in last Friday’s District 10 Class A consolation contest.
Kennedy Catholic edged Eisenhower in double-OT, 66-62, earning a berth in the statewide tournament. The Golden Eagles were to meet District 9 champion Ridgway Friday at Clarion University’s Tippin Gymnasium in the opening round; instead, Eisenhower will represent D-10 as its 3rd-place team.
Raiders win 17th region title; 11 locals to Hershey
When Reynolds senior Levi Stoyer came off the mat after his 145-pound championship at the Northwest AA Regional Championships, he wasn’t celebrating his second straight crown. Instead, he turned to head coach Casey Taylor and said, “I did it for the team.”
And the team needed it!
Stoyer defeated Brookville’s Zach Vroman, 3-0, and sent Reynolds on its way to the school’s 17th region team title Saturday night at Sharon High School. Reynolds finished with 147 points, to Brookville’s 138.
Hickory girls capture 1st district title since 1983
MEADVILLE — Depending upon peoples’ perceptions, 31 years can seem like a lifetime ... but so can 16 minutes.
Hickory High girls’ basketball program’s District 10 drought ended Saturday afternoon as perennial power Villa Maria virtually vanished from the 2nd-half scoreboard.
The Lady Hornets erased a 7-point halftime deficit by yielding just 4 second-half points en route to a 39-24 victory over Villa Maria in the District 10 Class AAA championship game.
KC beats Cochranton for 4th straight D-10 crown
MEADVILLE — Everybody is on April Bocian’s bandwagon — and rightly so. But Tatum Kress helped keep Kennedy Catholic High girls’ basketball program atop District 10’s Class A competition.
Kress connected for all 14 of her points during the 2nd half Saturday afternoon, keying the Kennedy Catholic to a 49-38 conquest of Cochranton.
McLane rallies to beat Mercer in AA title tilt
In 1986, the Mercer Lady M’s won the school’s first and only girls basketball District 10 title at Edinboro University’s McComb Field House, but in the same gym on Saturday in 2014, the squad in blue wasn’t so lucky.
Mercer led the Gen. McLane Lady Lancers 27-19 entering the fourth quarter, but the Lancers outscored the Lady M’s 19-4 in the final frame to win the Class AA title tilt 38-31.
WM captures 3rd straight D-10 crown
EDINBORO — The West Middlesex Big Reds did it again! For the third straight year, the Big Reds, under the leadership of head coach Chad Mild, the winningest coach in West Middlesex school history, won the District 10 title with a thrilling 55-54 victory over the Fairview Tigers on Friday night at McComb Field House.
Farrell beats East for D-10 Class AAA title
MEADVILLE — Malik Miller was playing with a broken hand, but broke the hearts of East High’s basketball team.
Sophomore sharpshooter Miller mustered 19 markers — tossing in 4 from beyond the arc — helping forge Farrell to the District 10 Class AAA championship, 83-78.
Raiders hold lead at Northwest AA Region Tourney
Reynolds coach Casey Taylor had a simple, but fitting comment after the opening night of the Northwest AA Region Wrestling Championships at Sharon High School Friday:
“So far; so good!”
The defending champion Raiders, who are seeking a 17th region crown in school history, jumped into the team lead with 45 points Friday, heading second place Brookville with 35.
KC beats Ike in 2OT; Raiders fall
The Kennedy Catholic boys advanced to the PIAA Class A playoffs with a thrilling 66-62 double-overtime win against Eisenhower at Edinboro University in the District 10 consolation game on Friday night.
In Class AA, Mercyhurst Prep ended the season of the Reynolds Raiders with a 64-44 win at Slippery Rock University.
Brookfield boys, girls hoops teams ousted
ä Newton Falls 47, Brookfield 45 — At Newton Falls Friday night, coach Bill Kovach’s Warriors (13-10) suffered a tough playoff loss to the Tigers (14-9).
Brookfield led 18-8 at the end of the 1st quarter, but NF cut the lead to 26-22 at halftime. The Tigers outscored Brookfield 16-5 in the 3rd quarter and held off the Warriors in the 4th for the victory.
Roundup: Hickory, Mercer, KC girls to play for titles
ä Hickory 62, Mercyhurst Prep 42 — At West Middlesex High School, the Hickory Hornets punched their ticket to the District 10 championship game with a 62-42 semifinal victory over the Lady Lakers of Mercyhurst Prep.
“It’s a great feeling to get to the championship game,” said Hickory coach Jeanette Whitehead. “This is what we’ve been working towards. It’s a reflection of the hard work of these girls.”
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