North Catholic upends two-time defending champ Lincoln Park in Class 3A title game

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Thursday, February 27, 2020 | 10:31 PM


Isaac DeGregorio sensed that the run was coming.

North Catholic hadn’t led since the opening minutes, but scored 13 consecutive second-half points Thursday night to defeat top-seeded Lincoln Park, 65-56, in the WPIAL Class 3A boys basketball championship at Petersen Events Center. A four-point deficit suddenly became a nine-point lead, a stunning reversal that let the second-seeded Trojans topple the two-time defending champions.

“You could see they were getting super tired,” said DeGregorio, who scored 15 of his game-high 19 points after halftime. “We got into their legs and just kept going and going. Guys made shots, we got run-outs and wide-open layups.

“We ran them out of the gym.”

The outcome was a reversal from last winter, when North Catholic (24-2) lost to Lincoln Park (21-4) in the WPIAL finals. This was the third time in four seasons that these teams met at Petersen Events Center. North Catholic also defeated Lincoln Park in 2017.

North Catholic now has five WPIAL titles. The team also won in 2009, ’10 and ’16.

“Once you get used to it, you know (the run) is coming,” North Catholic coach Dave DeGregorio said.

Four of Lincoln Park’s five starters dealt with cramps, Lincoln Park coach Mike Bariski said, forcing the Leopards to dig deeper into their bench. That wasn’t why they lost, he added, but it certainly hurt their chances.

Lincoln Park was the two-time defending WPIAL champion.

“We put a lot of energy into what we were doing,” Bariski said. “I give them all the credit for the run they went on. They got a little hot.”

North Catholic had trailed 40-36 with less than 3 minutes left in the third quarter before sparking the 13-0 run. Consecutive baskets by Jackson Paschall, DeGregorio and Paschall again gave North Catholic a 42-40 lead after three.

That was the team’s first lead since 4-2.

“We came out with energy in the second half,” North Catholic senior Ryan Feczko said. “That was key.”

The run continued into the fourth quarter with a basket by Jake Tomer and four more points from Paschall to lead 49-40 with about 5 minutes left.

Paschall had 14 points and Tomer added 11.

“It’s something that we’re not used to,” said Lincoln Park senior Isaiah Smith, who was making his fourth finals appearance. “We’re used to being on the other side (of runs). It hurts a little bit. It was frustrating trying to figure out what we could do.”

North Catholic had a dismal shooting night here in the WPIAL finals last winter and started slowly again this year. But the Trojans defense bought the offense just enough time for those shots to start falling in the second half.

The team made one 3-pointer in the first half and three after halftime.

“If we guard the way that we guarded tonight, then we can survive a drought when we’re not shooting the ball well,” Dave DeGregorio said.

Lincoln Park had led 14-12 after the first quarter and 29-23 at half. Andre Wilder led the Leopards with 18 points and Tanner Mathos had 11.

“We’re not done,” Bariski said. “This happened to us four years ago and we went to the state championship, so we’re not done.”

The state playoffs start March 7.

This was Lincoln Park’s fifth consecutive appearance in the WPIAL finals. The team joined Midland (1973-77), Duquesne (1992-96) and Aliquippa (2003-07) as boys basketball teams to reach the WPIAL finals five years in a row.

North Catholic’s lead was six points with around 3 minutes left before the Trojans scored eight more points in a row. This run included four free throws by DeGregorio, who went 12 for 12 from the foul line. He made 10 in the fourth quarter.

The WPIAL title was the first for both father and son.

“It’s the best feeling in the world, because this was my third time in the WPIAL championship,” Isaac DeGregorio said. “I don’t know how many times he’s been there, but he’d never won. So winning our first one together, especially with my little brother Owen on the team, there’s nothing better than that. Winning as a family is awesome.”

This was Dave DeGregorio’s second season coaching North Catholic.

“Hugging Owen and Isaac after the game was a pretty special dad-son moment,” he said. “But I’ve got to be honest, I felt a little bit of that with every one of these guys giving them a hug.”

Watch an archived broadcast on Trib HSSN.

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

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