Lincoln Park hangs on for 1-point victory over Trinity in PIAA championship

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Saturday, March 23, 2019 | 4:19 PM


HERSHEY — This wasn’t the first time Lincoln Park built a double-digit lead and then held its breath until the clock reached zeroes.

But this time was for the state championship.

“It’s always scary when we’re starting to give up a lead,” senior Casey Oliver said, “because we’ve done it before. … On a big stage like it was tonight, it was creeping up in the backs of our minds.”

Isaiah Smith scored 21 points, Oliver had 14 and Lincoln Park built a 17-point third-quarter lead, but the WPIAL champion eventually needed them all in a 73-72 victory over Trinity in the PIAA Class 3A final Saturday at Giant Center.

Keeno Holmes had 12 points, and Johnnie Bryant and Andre Wilder added 11 points each as five scorers reached double figures for the Leopards. Wilder had 11 rebounds. The PIAA title was the second for Lincoln Park (27-4), which also won in 2014, but they had to wait to celebrate.

“That last two minutes, what did it take, about an hour and a half?” Lincoln Park coach Mike Bariski said. “That was unbelievable.”

The WPIAL champions led 52-35 with 3 minutes left in the third and appeared headed for a comfortable win before Trinity rallied behind star freshman Chance Westry, who scored 40 points.

The 6-foot-3 point guard with a Penn State scholarship offer made two 3-pointers in the final minute and teammate Patrick Walker made another with 1.2 seconds left to pull within one point.

Westry then deflected and stole Lincoln Park’s final inbounds pass, but the clock expired before Trinity could score again.

“Every game this happens to us. Every game,” Bariski said. “We get a lead and we give it up. This one was a little different.”

Lincoln Park saw two of its top free throw shooters foul out in the fourth quarter, first Wilder with 3:59 left and then Holmes a couple of minutes later. Neither had fouled out all season, Bariski said.

Without them, the Leopards missed nine of their final 14 free throws in the final two and a half minutes. But twice Smith stepped to the foul line and bolstered Lincoln Park’s hopes.

Smith made two with 90 seconds left and two more with 56 seconds to lead 72-64.

With 8 seconds left, Bryant made one of two for a 73-69 lead.

“Going to the foul line in a place like this, that’s really, really hard,” Bariski said. “We tried to concentrate on getting the ball to the three guys who play a lot.”

“We were all composed,” Smith said. “A couple of our guys couldn’t hit free throws, but that’s OK. We came in, we helped them, we picked them up and we got this win.”

Westry scored 19 points of his 40 points in the fourth quarter. He went 13 for 23 shooting from the field overall, including 4 for 6 from 3-point range.

He also converted 10 of 12 foul shots and grabbed nine rebounds, but his teammates provided little scoring support. Walker added 12 points.

“That kid is unbelievable,” Bariski said of Westry. “We face-guarded him for awhile, and we had a hard time. But we had five guys in double figures. Walking in I said we need five guys in double figures to win this game.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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