Lincoln Park duo of Brandin Cummings, Meleek Thomas too much for young Knoch

Wednesday, February 21, 2024 | 9:55 PM

Knoch became the latest in a long line of WPIAL basketball opponents the last couple of years to try to stop the titan that is Lincoln Park.

Led by their NCAA Power 5 recruits Brandin Cummings and Meleek Thomas, the Leopards again proved to be too tough to tame.

Thomas had 32 points, and Cummings scored 21 to lead the top-seeded Leopards past No. 8 Knoch, 81-58, in the WPIAL Class 4A boys basketball quarterfinals Wednesday at North Allegheny.

The defending champion Leopards advanced to play No. 4 Uniontown in the semifinals. Knoch will go into the consolation bracket against North Catholic on Friday. The winner of that game will secure a spot in the state tournament.

“We knew they were really good going in, but you can’t simulate the length and athleticism (Lincoln Park) brings to the table,” Knoch coach Alan Bauman said. “I thought that was a huge difference. They play hard, and they play physical. They beat us tonight. We had some chances, but I thought Lincoln Park took advantage of situations that they needed to.”

Ryan Lang was fouled on a 3-pointer, and he hit the free throw to put Knoch ahead 4-3, but that was the only lead the Knights had.

Lincoln Park outscored the Knights, 23-9, the rest of the quarter. Cummings hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored 11 points in the frame. He hit one from nearly 25 feet at the buzzer to give the Leopards a 26-13 lead.

Thomas took over the scoring duties in the second quarter, scoring 10 points. He nailed a turnaround jumper as time expired for Lincoln Park’s second buzzer-beater.

That gave the Leopards a 46-27 lead going into halftime.

Lang had eight points in the first quarter for the Knights and made a 3-pointer to begin the second but was injured in a scrum for a loose ball midway through the frame. He did not return. Coach Bauman said he was held out for precautionary reasons.

“You have to give (Knoch) a lot of credit because they’re a bunch of sophomores, and they battled,” Lincoln Park coach Mike Bariski said. “We’re a veteran team. It was speed against size, and our quickness affected them. They’re a good team, and their future is ahead of them. Losing (Lang) was tough for them. He’s a dangerous player.”

Knoch began the third quarter on an 8-0 run, highlighted by 3 pointers from Jackson Bauman and Teegan Finucan, but Lincoln Park answered with an 8-0 run of its own.

The Leopards maintained a comfortable 61-43 after three quarters.

Rhaki Lum had 15 for the Leopards.

Bauman led the Knights with 14 points, and Finucan scored 13.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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