Lincoln Park's championship hangover short-lived
Posted Mar 12, 2012 | Sports
Posted: Saturday, March 10, 2012 11:15 pm
Lincoln Park's championship hangover short-lived Jim Equels Jr. Times Sports Correspondent Timesonline.com | 0 comments
AMBRIDGE - So much for a WPIAL championship hangover.
After winning its first WPIAL Class A championship a week ago, there was a school of thought that the Lincoln Park basketball team might have motivation issues in the opening round of the PIAA tournament against Clarion-Limestone, the No. 4 seed from lightly regarded District 9.
That proverbial lull lasted all of 37 seconds.
After spotting Clarion-Limestone a 6-0 lead on a pair of 3-pointers, Lincoln Park ended the first quarter with a 38-13 run on its way to an incredible 64-point first half. Clarion-Limestone provided limited opposition for the Leopards, as Lincoln Park rolled to a 93-54 victory Friday night at Ambridge.
With the win, Lincoln Park improved to 23-4 and advanced to the second round of the tournament, where it will meet District 5 champion Shade. Clarion-Limestone had its season come to a close at 19-7.
"There was no way we were going to come in with that mindset," freshman point guard Antonio Kellem said of a WPIAL title letdown. "Coach (Mark Javens) wouldn't allow that. He made sure we knew what the ultimate goal was. We won the WPIAL, which was nice, but we want to win states. Our third season started tonight."
"Winning the WPIAL championship was a nice accomplishment, but ultimately it doesn't mean much now except for seeding," Javens said. "We made sure the guys knew what the goal is."
Kellem led Lincoln Park's first-quarter explosion, scoring 13 of his 16 points in the opening eight minutes. After Clarion-Limestone connected on back-to-back 3-point baskets on its first two shots of the game to take a 6-0 lead, Kellem took things over in the first quarter.
The freshman connected on 5 of 6 shots from the floor in the quarter, including two 3-pointers and a three-point play after making a steal on an inbounds pass and scoring on a drive to the basket, where he was fouled.
Not bad for a first-year player, in his first state playoff game, competing against opponents two and three years older than he is.
"He's a freshman, but he's a sophomore maturity-wise," Javens said. "Sometimes it's hard to believe he's just in ninth grade; he does so many good things. But we wouldn't be able to do what we do without him."
"I don't even think about what grade anyone is," Kellem said. "I just go out and play. But my job is easy when you look at the guys I'm playing with."
Kellem was one of four Lincoln Park starters to reach double-figures, including three who scored more than 20 points. Guard Trey Hosack scored 21 points, including 11 in the first quarter, and Ryan Skovranko added 20. Six-foot-10 center Devontae Watson came up just shy of a triple-double with 21 points, 17 rebounds and nine blocked shots.
Despite the easy win, Javens is well aware that the remainder of the state tournament won't be as easy as Friday's game, and that Lincoln Park's goal for the state title is still a work in progress. And like his response to the WPIAL title his team won a week ago, he won't let the Leopards rest on their laurel's after a blowout victory.
"I know I've said this before, but we still haven't played our best game yet," Javens said. "We still have a lot to work on."