No. 1 Lincoln Park boys shake off sluggish start, cruise past Deer Lakes

Friday, February 14, 2020 | 10:47 PM

WPIAL Class 3A No. 1 seed Lincoln Park is the defending PIAA champion for a reason, and Friday night in the first round of the district playoffs, the Leopards showed why.

The Leopards (19-4) came out slowly, and No. 16 seed Deer Lakes took advantage in the first quarter. By the end of the second quarter, though, the Leopards found their stride and cruised to a 68-50 victory.

“We just didn’t wake up at first,” Lincoln Park coach Mike Bariski said. “We had a good second quarter, then in the third, we started playing sloppy again. But again, they hung in there. I tried a bunch of different guys, and a win is a win. I’m happy with that.”

Through the first eight minutes of the game, the Lancers (12-10) looked determined to pull off a historic upset. They battled with the big-bodied Leopards in the paint and forced a few turnovers while taking advantage on the offensive end.

The teams traded the lead 10 times in the first quarter. Lincoln Park’s Andre Wilder scored two of his game-high 18 points with 30 seconds to go in the first to put his team up 14-12. But the Lancers answered immediately as Armend Karpuzzi hit a layup at the buzzer to tie it at 14-14.

“When we left the locker room (before the game), I told my guys the only ones that are gonna be surprised are the ones watching the game and the WPIAL committee,” Deer Lakes coach Terence Parham said. “We were confident in our preparation. I mean, you still have to go out and execute, but the kids believed, and once they saw the score, they thought it was beyond possible.”

In the second quarter, the Leopards started to take control. With three players 6-foot-5 or taller and three others at 6-3, the Leopards wanted to use their size advantage to dominate inside. There wasn’t any stopping them once they got going.

Wilder piled up seven, then Dakari Bradford and L.A. Pratt added five each as the Leopards scored 24 second-quarter points. But the Lancers hampered their own cause.

They gave up eight or 10 points on missed layups and didn’t capitalize on the turnovers they created earlier in the game. The result was the Leopards taking a 13-point lead at halftime.

“When we are trying to slow it down, we can’t have empty possessions,” Parham said. “Then we had a couple turnovers that led to easy transition buckets. So those kinda created a little cushion for them and allowed them to relax a little bit.”

Early in the second half, it looked as though the Lancers would mount a comeback. Freshman guard Bryce Robson forced a turnover on the first possession and finished with a layup. A few moments later, he made a 3-pointer.

But it wasn’t enough. The Leopards quickly received a spark of energy from senior guard Johnnie Bryant, and the Lancers couldn’t trim the deficit to less than nine throughout the second half.

“I’ll give them all the credit in the world,” Bariski said. “They were prepared. They ran their stuff. They played a great game. They hit backdoors, and they rebounded.”

The No. 1 Leopards will play No. 10 Neshannock (16-7) on Thursday in the quarterfinals at a time and site to be determined.

Click to watch an archived broadcast on Trib HSSN.

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

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