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 falls to Lions in PIAA Class AA western region final
SLIPPERY ROCK — Brett Brumbaugh brought Bill Brest back to reality.
Brest seemed, Saturday afternoon, momentarily lost in thought when a post-game question was posed. Perhaps it was because it had been 3 months since he had experienced the disappointment of defeat.
Brumbaugh-led South Fayette’s football team short-circuited a splendid season a step shy of the statewide stage for Brest and Hickory High with a 23-20 win over the Hornets in the PIAA Class AA western regional championship game.
SPORTVIEW: Browns, Steelers will both lose
THE CLEVELAND Browns quarterback position has been a revolving door this season, but at least one of the more successful signal-callers is back. Jason Campbell is recovered from a concussion and will start.
Does it really matter?
Roundup: Opening-weekend tipoff tourneys conclude
Kittanning Tipoff Championship
ä Hickory 60, Kittanning 32 — Coach Jeannette Whitehead’s Lady Hornets had an impressive weekend in winning the opening tourney of the season.
“It’s nice to get out of the game with a win,” said Whitehead. “The kids were anxious to get going.”
2013-14 hoops season begins with tipoff tourneys
Farrell Julius McCoy Tipoff Tourney
ä Kennedy Catholic 48, Imani Christian Academy 40 — The Golden Eagles set up an all local rematch with host Farrell by pulling away in the fourth quarter in a tight battle.
For KC, Gerald Zachar and Sam Crow each scored 13 points to pace the victory, Brown had 14 and Southerner 12 for Imani.
Brookfield boys win season-opener against Py Valley
It was a typical season-opener: Too many turnovers, some questionable shot selection, and careless personal fouls. But for Brookfield High boys’ bench boss Bill Kovach, “ ... always happy with a win.”
The Warriors were 7-for-10 from the free-throw line during the 4th frame, and held off Pymatuning Valley, 59-48, Tuesday night.
Hornets advance to semis with win over Central
DuBOIS, PA. — Some people could say the “third time is a charm.” For the Hickory High Hornets it was much more than that. In fact, it was glorious.
After losing in the first round of the PIAA Class AA playoffs the last two years, the Hornets finally nailed down a victory with a 37-27 triumph over the Central Dragons from Martinsburg.
Lakeview falls to Clarion Area in PIAA quarterfinals
SLIPPERY ROCK — In the scholastic athletic arena, “mercy rule” — while not politically correct in hyper-sensitive 2013 society — is a relatively accepted term.
Clarion High’s football had mercy-ruled all 13 prior opponents this season. And the Bobcats seemed bent on continuing their commanding conquests during Saturday’s PIAA Class A quarterfinal-round meeting with Lakeview.
Hickory focused on winning PIAA opener
The calendar reminds us that Thanksgiving arrives a little later than usual this year. But as holiday traditions go, this one has been pretty productive for Hickory High head football coach Bill Brest.
“My wife always has me put up our Christmas tree on the Friday after Thanksgiving ... and the next day, we’ve won. So I’ll be more than happy to help my wife put up the tree this Friday,” Brest related.
During the past 2 years Hickory has won District 10 titles on Thanksgiving weekend. But this year the Hornets harvested their 3rd consecutive crown last week, jettisoning Girard (21-10). Now Hickory (11-1) has a 1 p.m. date in DuBois Saturday against surprising Central-Martinsburg (11-2) in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals.
Smart move by PIAA to schedule games early this weekend
Congratulations to the PIAA for making a good move that helps teams and fans of high school sports.
Wow, I haven’t been able to say that often enough!
But many of the high school football games this coming weekend will be played in the afternoon which is a real plus for traveling on possibly snow-blown highways at this time of the year.
Hornets 3-peat as D-10 champs with win vs. Girard
EDINBORO — When legendary coach Vince Lombardi said “the only good thing that comes from losing is the desire never to lose again,” he could very well have been referencing the future for Coach Bill Brest and his Hickory Hornets.
Since Hickory lost to Sharon, 14-6, in the 2010 District 10 finals in Brest’s first year at the helm of the team, the D-10 Class AA title game has belonged to Hickory. And Saturday afternoon at Edinboro University’s Sox Harrison Stadium, it was no different as the Hornets topped Girard, 21-10 for a third straight crown.
Sailors beat Devils to capture 1st District 10 title
NEW WILMINGTON — Lakeview may have a long way to go to equal Sharpsville’s success in the sport of football, but the Sailors jump-started the process Friday night.
With Blake Reddick roaring into the record book, the Sailors shut out Sharpsville, 27-0, in the District 10 Class A championship game at Greyhounds Stadium.
Hornets seek 3-peat Saturday vs. Girard
Bill Brest ... buffer?
Hickory High’s head football coach has broad shoulders and that’s necessary, because he’s taking on all distractions as his Hornets prepare for Saturday’s District 10 Class AA championship game.
Hickory (10-1) will attempt to hoist the D-10 trophy for a 3rd consecutive season when the Hornets journey to Girard’s backyard — Edinboro University’s Sox Harrison Stadium — to meet the Yellow Jackets at 1 p.m.
Hickory rolls past Northwestern in D-10 semifinals
SLIPPERY ROCK — They say that “Familiarity breeds contempt.” You can bet the Northwestern Wildcats are feeling a bit of the latter for the Hickory Hornets!
For a third straight season Hickory eliminated the northerners from the District 10 Class AA playoffs, this time by a 52-14 score in the semifinals Saturday night at Slippery Rock University’s Thompson-Mihalik Stadium.
Greenville falls to Girard in D-10 semifinals
ERIE — District 10 was destined for a Class AA championship game between reigning 2-time titlist Hickory and Greenville.
But no one informed the Girard High football team of the plans.
“ … This is pretty cool … I’m pretty fired up about it,” admitted 4th-year Yellow Jackets’ head coach Jim Funk after Girard jolted Greenville, 16-14.
SPORTVIEW: Season fate could be decided today for Browns, Steelers
IT MAKES NO sense to say that one game determines the rest of the season. That’s why I’ll simply say: Today’s one game determines the rest of the season.
Since when did my predictions make sense anyhow?
The Cleveland Browns’ visit to Cincinnati today will go a long way to deciding if the Browns have a shot at making the playoffs — and even winning the AFC North title — or if they should start planning for the NFL draft.
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