WPIAL Class 3A boys final preview: Seton LaSalle looking for revenge against No. 1 Lincoln Park

Tuesday, February 27, 2018 | 11:42 PM

The two teams have been on a collision course all season.

Top-seeded Lincoln Park (18-6) plays No. 2 Seton LaSalle (19-5) at 9 p.m. Thursday in the WPIAL Class 3A championship game at Petersen Events Center.

Expect plenty of points in this matchup, as the Leopards (64.5 ppg) and Rebels (62.9 ppg) are the two highest-scoring teams in Class 3A.

Lincoln Park has size and strength in each facet of the game,” Seton LaSalle coach Mark Walsh said. “They like to get up and down the floor and be able to run their offenses. They share the ball and communicate well with each other and their coaching staff. They are unselfish, and they defend hard. We are looking forward to the opportunity to play them.”

Both squads present imposing starting lineups with a healthy combination of height, talent and athleticism.

“We play at a fast pace; we're kind of an organized-mayhem kind of team,” Lincoln Park coach Mike Bariski said. “They are big and athletic, like us. They kind of like to get you in half-court sets. They run their offense very effectively.”

Seton LaSalle features an all-senior lineup led by 6-foot-3 guard/forward Jakob Richardson (15.5 ppg) and 6-3 forward/center George Mike IV (13.5 ppg). Mike IV is the team's leading rebounder.

“George Mike IV is an absolute beast,” Bariski said.

Lincoln Park's playoff catalyst has been 6-3 junior point guard Keeno Holmes, who is averaging 24.3 points in the postseason. Another key player is junior Thomas Melonja, a 6-6 power forward who exploded for 35 points in the Leopards' first-round win against Carlynton.

Seton LaSalle's season was ended by Lincoln Park a year ago in the WPIAL quarterfinals, as the Leopards won 71-70 on a dramatic 30-foot buzzer-beater.

“They probably have a little bone to pick with us after last year,” Bariski said. “I'm sure they will have a little chip on their shoulder. We play a (nonsection) schedule to get ready for games like this.”

Lincoln Park has won 14 of its last 16 contests, including eight of its past nine. Seton LaSalle has been victorious in 15 of its last 17 games, including seven of its past eight.

“The pride that we feel for this team this year is tremendous,” Walsh said. “We had a tough finish to last season, and the resilience these young men have shown coming back this year is incredible. These players put in so many hours in the offseason; it has paid off in the regular season and postseason. I really believe after the tough finish last year this team bonded through the summer and fall and is really coming together. I'm so proud of these young men.

“We are expecting Lincoln Park to be a very solid team, as they were last year. We are really excited for the opportunity.”

Class 3A boys

Lincoln Park vs. Seton LaSalle

9 p.m. Thursday, Petersen Events Center

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No. 1 Lincoln Park (18-6)

Coach: Mike Bariski

No. Player, Pos., Ht., Yr.

10 Andre Wilder, F, 6-4, Soph.

11 Tanner Mathos, F, 6-7, Soph.

12 Gildas Kodjo, G/F, 6-2, Sr.

24 Keeno Holmes, PG, 6-3, Jr.

55 Thomas Melonja, F, 6-6, Jr.

No. 2 Seton LaSalle (19-5)

Coach: Mark Walsh

No. Player, Pos., Ht., Yr.

2 Matt Banbury, G, 6-1, Sr.

3 Nick Deanes, G, 5-8, Sr.

4 George Mike IV, F/C, 6-3, Sr.

5 Jakob Richardson, G/F, 6-3, Sr.

41 Kaleb Krebs, F/C, 6-4, Sr.

Title-game history: Lincoln Park is making its seventh WPIAL title-game appearance in nine years. LP has finished as a WPIAL runner-up the past two years, as well as in 2010 and ‘11. The Leopards lost to Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, 56-51, and Aliquippa, 49-45, in the last two finals.

It is Seton LaSalle's third WPIAL championship game appearance in five years. The Rebels finished as a runner-up in 2015. Both teams have won two WPIAL titles — Lincoln Park in 2012 and 2014; Seton LaSalle in 1989 and 2014.

Stat leaders: LP : Holmes (23 ppg); SLS: Richardson (16.3 ppg).

Notable: Lincoln Park and Seton LaSalle have rich basketball traditions. The Leopards have advanced to the WPIAL playoffs every year since 2007-08; the Rebels have qualified for seven consecutive seasons. … Lincoln Park defeated section rival and No. 4 seed Aliquippa, 59-57, for the third time this season in the semifinal round. Holmes netted 25 points for the Leopards. … Holmes also scored 34 points in an 89-69 victory over No. 9 Burgettstown in the quarterfinals. … Seton LaSalle beat two-time defending champ and No. 6 seed Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, 54-49, in the semifinals behind Richardson's 19 points and Banbury's 12. The Rebels defeated CWNC twice in section play. … Seton LaSalle ran past No. 7 Shady Side Academy, 74-52, in the quarterfinals. Mike IV (24) and Richardson (20) combined for 44 points. … The two teams faced one common opponent this season. Lincoln Park defeated Carlynton, 80-48, in the WPIAL first round. Seton LaSalle clipped the Cougars twice in section play by scores of 87-46 and 52-39. … Both squads entered the playoffs as section champions. The Leopards have not lost a section contest since 2010-11, a string of 76 games in a row.

Predicted winner: Lincoln Park

Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.

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