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.
Breese defends heavyweight title at PIAA Championships
HERSHEY, Pa. — Move over Rod Wright!
Lakeview senior heavyweight star Sam Breese had a goal coming into the PIAA State Class AA Wrestling Championships this weekend at Hershey Giant Center — besides winning a second state crown, that is.
WM knocks off Neshannock in PIAA playoffs
SLIPPERY ROCK — The notion of Trey Staunch sneaking up on opposing teams is laughable. At 6-foot-3 and approximately 225 pounds, the stout Staunch is not sneaking up on anyone.
However after posting a game-high 31-point, 18-rebound performance in West Middlesex High basketball team’s 76-66 PIAA Class AA playoffs opening-round win over Neshannock Saturday night, Staunch said opponents may have been overlooking the Big Reds.
Hickory girls 26-0, oust Johnstown
SLIPPERY ROCK — At Morrow Field House Saturday evening, the Hickory Lady Hornets kept the perfect season alive with a 63-37 state playoff first round win over the Greater Johnstown Trojans from District 6.
“It feels great to get the win (Saturday),” said veterans Hickory coach Jeanette Whitehead. “We’ve been at this place over the last few years and we’ve been sent home in the first round so it was a huge win for us. I’m very proud of our team effort."
KC girls roll past California in PIAA playoffs
SLIPPERY ROCK — Kennedy Catholic High girls’ basketball team was in the ’hood Saturday afternoon.
Led by senior Taylor Hood, the Lady Golden Eagles eased past California, 53-34, in the opening round of the PIAA Class A playoffs.
Lakeview's Breese to defend PIAA title
HERSHEY, Pa. — If you are Major League Baseball player, a .333 batting average is great. But in wrestling at the state tournament — not so much!
Out of the dozen wrestlers that Mercer County sent to Hershey for the PIAA State Class AA Wrestling Championships, only four (.333) will reach the medal stand today — led by Lakeview senior Sam Breese who shoots for a second straight gold medal.
Farrell edges Montour, 60-57, in PIAA opener
Montour High boys’ basketball coach Adam Kaufman lamented another season-ending setback. However there are several hundred coaches across the Commonwealth who envy his program’s recent success and would trade places with him in a heartbeat.
But during Friday night’s PIAA Class AAA playoff opener, Kaufman & Co. could not overcome those streaky Steelers ... those survivin’ Steelers.
“ ... Hey, survive and move on,” summarized Steelers’ skipper Roland Shannonhouse following Farrell’s 60-57 win at Sharon High.
GCC ousts Mercer in 1st round of PIAAs
The Mercer Lady Mustangs were outscored 16-4 in the final quarter of the first round of the state playoffs by the Greensburg Central Catholic Centurions, ending their season Friday night 56-31 at Sharon High School.
Senior Lexie Arkwright had a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double performance for the Lady M’s. She also snagged three steals. Adelyn Cook and Haylie Glass each added 4 points for Mercer.
5 area matmen to quarterfinals in Hershey
HERSHEY — Mercer County matmen had mixed results on the opening day of action in the PIAA State Class AA Wrestling Championships at the Giant Center.
Only 5 of the county’s dozen entries — led by defending state champ Sam Breese of Lakeview (285) — won their preliminary matches to move into the tournament quarterfinals which begin at 9 a.m. today. However the other 7 lost their first matches, although 3 are still alive in the consolations heading into this morning’s action.
Coach Chad Mild's Big Reds are road warriors
West Middlesex High boys basketball team did not play its first home game until after the first of the year, but competing at New Castle, Farrell and Youngstown’s Covelli Centre has served it well.
Witness West Middlesex’s 55-54 win over Fairview in last weekend’s District 10 Class AA championship game — at Edinboro University’s McComb Field House.
Boys PIAA basketball preview boxes
Who: Farrell (22-3) vs. Montour (16-8).
What: Opening round.
When: 7:30 p.m. today.
Where: Sharon High’s Tiger Gymnasium.
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.
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