Lincoln Park blows out Clearfield; advances to PIAA semifinals for 2nd time in 3 years

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Friday, March 19, 2021 | 8:58 PM


Lincoln Park is all about “One More.”

The Leopards want to make one more pass, one more rotation, one more effort, and, most importantly, one more win. The motto is painted above their locker-room door and as each player gets set to walk up the stairs and take the court before a game, they give it one final slap.

On Friday night, in their PIAA Class 4A quarterfinal matchup against District 9 champion Clearfield, the Leopards (19-5) emulated their motto like they have all season.

They made the extra pass when needed, grabbed an offensive board when the situation presented itself and played aggressive and physical defense that led to a 67-34 victory over the Bisons (20-6).

“It’s always been one more pass, one more win, one more game, one more section, one more WPIAL, one more state title,” Lincoln Park coach Mike Bariski said.

Once again, freshman Brandin Cummings led the Leopards with 15 points. Juniors L.A. Pratt and Ali Brown added 12 a piece in the blowout victory.

The Leopards started off hot, and Cummings led the way. The 6-foot-3 freshman started with a 3-pointer before Joseph Scott and Elias Bishop added a layup and a jumper to go up 7-0.

From there, the Leopards controlled the game. They got up and down the floor, pressured Clearfield’s ball handlers and Scott, Dakari Bradford and Montae Reddix sent back multiple shots around the rim. The Bisons were corralled.

At one point in the first half, Bradford’s brother, Daquan, sent a shot into the stands and the Leopards controlled the momentum. By the end of the first half, they had built a 22-point lead.

Lincoln Park thrived off their defensive pressure, which helped them get out on fast breaks and keep the game at a fast pace.

“I think that’s our biggest thing and people don’t really realize that offense leads to defense,” Pratt said. “There’s no way that we get our fast breaks without getting steals, getting rebounds and getting the ball out. So I feel like our main goal is always defense, and that’s what we’ve been working on.”

At this point last year, the Leopards were getting set to play in the PIAA quarterfinals after winning their first two games in the state playoffs. Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit and canceled the state tournament. Now, the Leopards are using that as motivation heading into the rest of the state tournament.

“It’s definitely a motivating factor for us because we look at basketball like it could be here today and gone tomorrow,” Pratt said. “So we’re not trying to take anything for granted because we know, even tomorrow, we could wake up tomorrow, we could have a covid case and our season could be over. So we’re just trying to enjoy the moment and enjoy playing basketball with this group of guys.”

Two years ago, the Leopards went 27-4 and captured the PIAA Class 3A title. Now, they are two wins away from going back to Hershey, and with another PIAA championship appearance on the horizon, the Leopards are locked in.

“They are extremely focused and a couple of these guys were on that last state championship team,” Bariski said. “One was hurt and the other one played poorly. So we have four guys from that state championship team that liked that win and want it again.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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