Lincoln Park caps unofficial tip-off tournament with win over Central Catholic

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Sunday, January 10, 2021 | 12:30 AM


L.A. Pratt’s calf was cramping but he had a wide-open hoop ahead of him, so he waved off the timeout and finished a one-legged layup.

“Earlier, I was trying to dunk it,” said the Lincoln Park junior, “and I cramped in midair.”

After a three-week layoff, high school basketball teams across the state are still working their legs into playing shape, but Lincoln Park isn’t interested in slowing down.

There’s no time.

A 6-foot-3 guard, Pratt scored a game-high 21 points Saturday night as the host Leopards used a strong third quarter to defeat Central Catholic, 59-47. This was the team’s second game in two nights and the start of four games in an eight-day span.

“We were real sore,” Pratt said, “but we ended up playing through it.”

Most tip-off tournaments were canceled this winter, eliminating a season-opening test for teams, but Lincoln Park coach Mike Bariski tried his best to replicate one — even if the Midland gym was almost empty.

On consecutive nights, Bariski scheduled two of the WPIAL’s best Class 6A teams. The Leopards lost Friday at No. 1 ranked Upper St. Clair, 85-53, but bounced back at home against No. 4 Central Catholic (1-1).

Lincoln Park (1-1) is ranked second in Class 4A.

“Now we know some things we need to work on,” Bariski said. “The big thing is probably conditioning. We’ll do that. We’ll run a bunch Monday. We’ll practice a bunch Tuesday. And get at it Wednesday.”

Sophomore guard Dante DePante led Central Catholic with 16 points.

Lincoln Park held only a one-point lead at half before outscoring the Vikings, 15-8, in the third. Overall, Central Catholic lost the second half by 11 points.

This also was the second game in a row for the Vikings, who defeated Norwin on Friday.

“We wanted to play against good teams and they brought it tonight,” Central Catholic assistant coach Kyle Goldcamp said. “They were the better team.”

Central Catholic coach Brian Urso missed Saturday’s game. Goldcamp said Urso was expected back next week.

“We knew Lincoln Park had some really good ball handlers, guys that could take us off the dribble,” Goldcamp said. “We knew we had to try to take that away the best we could. Unfortunately, we couldn’t.”

The lead changed hands three times in the second quarter until Pratt’s foul-line jumper put Lincoln Park ahead 18-17. The gap remained single digits until Pratt scored on three consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter, twice on breakaway baskets.

A layup by Elias Bishop pushed the Leopards’ lead to 55-41 with about 2 minutes left.

“We got here a little early and worked on some things,” Bariski said. “We played a lot better tonight.”

Lincoln Park was at full-strength Saturday with 6-foot-7 forward Joe Scott back in the lineup. The sophomore missed Friday’s loss.

Lincoln Park had added Central Catholic and Upper St. Clair to its schedule months ago as mid-season showcase games. The shutdown forced teams to rearrange their plans, so Bariski rescheduled both for opening weekend.

Pratt said his team liked the challenge.

“A lot of teams don’t play these types of (opponents) in the beginning of the season,” Pratt said. “This shows what kind of team we are.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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