Lincoln Park cruises past unbeaten Union
Lincoln Park (80) Vs. Union (39)
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS
Things have changed in the Union-Lincoln Park boys basketball rivalry.
In the five previous meetings before the WPIAL Section 1-A clash at storied Midland Gymnasium the largest margin of victory for either team had been three points.
That wasn’t the case this time. Lincoln Park opened up a nine-point lead midway through the first quarter, held a 28-13 edge at the close of the period, was on top 39-16 at the half and cruised to an 80-39 victory last night.
The loss was the first of the season for Union, which came into the game with a 9-0 record, and was the Section 1-A opener for the Scotties. Union is ranked No. 2 in the WPIAL in Class A by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Union’s problem was that it didn’t shoot the ball well. Against a tall and talented Lincoln Park team, that spelled disaster because the Scotties didn’t get many offensive rebounds.
“Shoot good, look good. We didn’t shoot real good and because of that we didn’t look good,” Union coach Dave Smialowski said. “I told the players this was their first taste of adversity and it’s important how we handle it.
“I think we’ll handle it well. They have a sour taste right now, but we’ve got Monaca at home Friday and we’ll get back after it.”
Union had trouble handling two Lincoln Park players. Chaquille Pratt, a 6-foot-3 junior, led the Leopards (2-0 section, 7-4 overall) with 29 points and scored 11 in the first quarter. But the guy who gave the Scotties the biggest problem was Lincoln Park’s big man.
Devontae Watson, a 6-9 sophomore, finished with 16 points, which was bad enough. He also grabbed 21 rebounds and blocked 11 shots.
After he swatted away a couple Union field-goal attempts in the first quarter the Scotties seemed to be looking over their shoulders for Watson whenever they drove to the basket.
“You can’t simulate that in practice,” Smialowski said when asked about Watson’s ability to swat away shots. “He’s not just 6-9, he also has a big wingspan. But the thing was we just didn’t knock down many mid-range shots.”
Watson didn’t believe he intimidated the Union players as much as he made them alter their shots.
“It seemed like they were doing a lot of pump faking,” he said. “Defense is my favorite thing. I love to play defense.”
Speaking of defense, Lincoln Park did a good job of forcing the Scotties out of their comfort zone, especially in the second quarter.
Union got an open 3-point attempt at the start of the second period and missed. The Scotties didn’t get another decent scoring opportunity after that until Nate Majors drove for a layup with 40 seconds left in the half. By that time, Union had missed its first 10 field-goal attempts in the quarter and Lincoln Park had a 39-14 lead.
Anthony Thomas, who came into the game averaging 29.3 points, finished with 19 and connected on just one 3-point attempt.
“We knew about Thomas and the thing we didn’t want him to do was get the ball back once he passed it,” said Mark Javens, Lincoln Park assistant coach. “We did a pretty good job of that. We figured if they were going to beat us it was going to be their other players, not Thomas, who were going to have to do it.”
Javens admitted having a 6-9 player on the court who is good at blocking shots allows the Leopards to be creative on defense.
“This was a good win for us,” Javens said. “That’s a pretty good team we just beat.”