Lincoln Park tops North Catholic, avenges last season’s WPIAL championship loss
Monday, March 15, 2021 | 9:43 PM
Dakari Bradford never forgot the emotions he saw in Lincoln Park’s locker room last winter, especially the sadness from the seniors playing their final WPIAL championship.
“It was a heart-breaker,” he said.
To keep that from happening again, the senior scored nine of his 19 points in the fourth quarter Monday night as No. 2-seed Lincoln Park avenged last year’s championship loss with a 66-57 victory over No. 5 North Catholic in the WPIAL Class 4A final at North Allegheny.
North Catholic led by three points after three quarters but was outscored 21-9 in the fourth.
“We promised them that this year we would win it,” Bradford said. “It felt good to come back and win.”
This was the third year in a row and fourth time in five seasons that Lincoln Park and North Catholic met in the WPIAL finals. The all-time championship series is now tied 2-2, but North Catholic won last season, 65-56.
North Catholic returned only two players who contributed much to that win, but Lincoln Park’s roster has a number of holdovers.
“The seniors — Elias Bishop, Dakari Bradford, Montae Reddix and Daquan Bradford — were absolutely focused in on this for the last two weeks,” Lincoln Park coach Mike Bariski said.
The Leopards also got help from someone still in middle school a year ago.
Freshman Brandin Cummings scored a team-high 22 points for Lincoln Park (18-5) with 12 in the first half, capitalizing on his late-season jump into the starting lineup. Bishop had 15 points, including a steal and go-ahead layup in the fourth, and junior L.A. Pratt added 10.
The WPIAL title was Lincoln Park’s fifth — all since 2012.
“This whole season has been a hell of a ride,” Cummings said. “To finally get to the championship and win, it feels amazing.”
Andrew Ammerman scored a game-high 35 points for North Catholic (18-5), which led 48-45 after three quarters. The 6-foot-7 senior also had 13 rebounds and five blocks.
Lincoln Park’s defense focused largely on silencing North Catholic’s guards instead of Ammerman, but he kept the Trojans in the game. Ammerman scored six points in the first quarter, eight in the second, 12 in the third and nine in the fourth.
“Our plan all along was to stay behind him and take away their 3s,” Bariski said. “Never would I have thought he’d be able to control the game like that. He did. They did a great job.”
North Catholic repeatedly fed the ball inside to Ammerman, who went 12 for 17 shooting, largely on layups. But the rest of North Catholic’s lineup made only 9 of 32 shots and went 3 for 16 from 3-point range.
Ammerman was the only North Catholic player to score in the fourth quarter.
“They were going to let Andrew play down there and they were going to take away our shooters,” North Catholic coach Dave DeGregorio said. “Their length is difficult to deal with. All of a sudden you’re getting to the rim, and you’ve got Bradford who’s coming in, who’s big and long. And then off the weak side you’ve got big and long.
“We had a couple of finishes that we didn’t get that we normally get.”
Lincoln Park also took advantage of its depth in the middle, rotating both Reddix and sophomore Joseph Scott against Ammerman. Reddix is listed at 6-8 and Scott is 6-7. That’s a luxury most teams don’t have.
Reddix fouled out with about 2 minutes left but Scott took over against Ammerman.
“We had 10 fouls to give,” Bariski said. “We leaned on him and wanted to stay behind him. We wanted to press at him a little bit to maybe make him tired at the end.”
With North Catholic leading 48-43, Lincoln Park sparked a 13-1 run that stretched from the third quarter into the fourth. The run included six points by Bishop and five from Bradford to take a 56-49 lead with about 4 minutes left.
Bradford added a driving layup about a minute later to push the Leopards’ lead to eight.
“I knew we were down, it’s my senior year and I had to put the team on my back,” Bradford said. “I knew what I had to do.”
North Catholic was forced to foul, and Lincoln Park made 6 of 7 free throws in the final minute to clinch the win. Bishop went 4 for 4 from the foul line in the final 40 seconds.
“This,” Bariski said, “feels good for the kids.”
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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