Lincoln Park had one more celebration following Tuesday night’s 65-46 win over Ridgway in a PIAA Class A semifinal at Clarion University. But aside from a few shouts of joy and a water cooler bath for coach Mark Javens, the emotions after the game were (mostly) the way the low-key Cottrill liked.
No one would have blamed the Leopards for initiating a wild show of emotion. To say the crowd at Clarion’s Tippin Gymnasium was pro-Ridgway would be an understatement.
Once the game had clearly swung in Lincoln Park’s favor, however, the shouts of the maroon-clad throng switched from encouragement for its team to the usual taunts Lincoln Park has heard again and again.
“Recruiting!” yelled one woman. “Give someone else that kid’s scholarship,” said a man seated boldly on the Lincoln Park side of the gym.
The Leopards seemed to take it all in stride. They’re used to having big crowds cheer against them, and they know the effect that can have on a team.
“When you’ve got a big crowd there, it makes you play better,” said Leopards center Devontae Watson. “They get you all hyped up for the game. It’s good to have a big crowd because it intimidates the other team.”
Lincoln Park was clearly not intimidated. After a tight early first quarter, the Leopards began to pull away thanks to the outside shooting of freshman Antonio Kellem. He made a 3-pointer late in the first quarter to put the Leopards up 23-12 going into the second.
Kellem had three threes in the first half en route to 11 points, which matched the Lincoln Park lead, 33-22. He finished with a game-high 17.
Lincoln Park put the game away in the third period, holding Ridgway to three points. The Elkers, in fact, went from the 5:09 mark of the third quarter until the 7:00 mark of the fourth without scoring.
By the end of the third, Lincoln Park led by 24, making the final period a mere formality.
The Ridgway fans booed lustily when Ryan Skovranko, who, along with Trey Hosack, had 16 points, dunked late in the fourth quarter. If every good story needs a villain, Lincoln Park has certainly been cast as that because of its charter school status.
“That’s how we’re looked at because we have kids from different areas of Beaver County,” said Watson. “But it’s a charter school. That’s how it is. Not all the people who go to our school are going there for basketball.
“People are going there because they want a better life. For me personally, Ambridge was a terrible school for me. ... Whenever I became who I am now, it’s thanks to Lincoln Park. Lincoln Park changed my life.”
The players hope for a collective life-changing experience when they travel to Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center for the PIAA Class A final Friday. Lincoln Park will face Philadelphia Constitution at 2p.m.
Last year, the Leopards came away with the silver medal. This time, they aim to change that.
“I can’t even explain the feelings right now,” said Hosack. “I remember being there last year to watch them and it was kind of hard to watch at times as they kind of fell apart. Now that I’m back and we have a better squad, I feel like we can get it done this year.”
“We’ve come a long way, and we have new players,” said Cottrill. “This year I think we’re going to play harder in the state championship.”
And if Lincoln Park wins, maybe he’ll even let himself celebrate a little.
Lincoln Park 65, Ridgway 46
RIDGWAY Reynolds 3 1-2 11, Matheson 5 3-4 14, Lundin 1 4-4 6, Sorge 1 0-0 2, Mitchell 3 0-0 6, Oknefski 0 0-0 0, Roselli 1 0-0 2, Leithner 0 0-0 0, Jaques 0 0-0 0, Byrd 0 0-0 0, Stark 1 0-0 2, Kinkead 1 0-0 3. Totals 16 7-10 47.
LINCOLN PARK Watson 4 0-0 8, Hosack 8 0-1 16, Skovranko 6 2-2 16, Kellem 6 2-2 17, Cottrill 2 2-2 6, Lipke 1 0-0 2, Loedding 0 0-0 0, Prince 0 0-0 0, Allen 0 0-0 0, Summers 0 0-0 0, Badgett 0 0-0 0, Cobb 0 0-0 0. Totals 27 6-7 65.
Ridgway 12 10 3 21 — 46
Lincoln Park 23 10 16 26 — 65
3-point goals: Ridgway 4 (Reynolds 2, Matheson 1, Kinkead 1), Lincoln Park 5 (Kellem 3, Skovranko 2).