Lancers fall to powerful Lincoln Park
Neshannock (64) Vs. Lincoln Park (69)
By JOE SAGER
What may have appeared to be a mismatch turned into a great clash last night.
The Neshannock High boys basketball team fought back from a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit, but Lincoln Park held on for the crucial 69-64 WPIAL Section 1-A road triumph.
“Neshannock is a very good team, especially on their floor,” Lincoln Park assistant coach Mark Javens said. “Anytime you play on the road and win, it’s a good win.”
The victory capped off a successful week for the Leopards (3-0 section, 8-4 overall) as they knocked off their top two section challengers. They blitzed Union, 80-39, at home on Tuesday.
“It was a good win at our place and, to come up here on the road, that puts us maybe a game ahead of the pack,” Javens said. “Now, Neshannock has to come to our place and we have to go to Union. But, we’ll take them as they come.”
It was a deflating loss for the Lancers (1-1, 9-4). They battled the guests for most of the game until the Leopards began to pull away in the third.
Lincoln Park made it a 57-37 game with 7:08 to play, but Neshannock embarked on a 19-3 spree to trim that deficit to four points, 60-56, with 1:24 left in the contest.
“They played extremely hard throughout the entire game. In that fourth quarter, we were able to create a lot of deflections and steals,” Neshannock coach John Corey said. “The problem was, obviously with the lineup they have and our size, we were forced to play a lot of zone and we were protecting the paint and cylinder. Because of that, it took away some of our quickness.”
The Lancers were unable to get any closer as the Leopards clung to the victory.
“Basketball is a game of runs. We knew, at some point, they were going to come back and we just had to keep our composure,” Javens said. “I think we did a pretty good job at it.”
Chaquille Pratt led Lincoln Park with 29 points.
“He is an unbelievable basketball player,” Corey said. “He is a very strong kid and has a nice jump shot. He makes it very difficult to guard him. He gives you a very tough matchup.”
The 6-foot-3 junior guard — combined with 6-9 sophomore center Devontae Watson — presented matchup problems for Neshannock all night.
“Pratt averages around 25 points per game and he rebounds the basketball. He’s basically our go-to guy right now. So, in the crunch, we have to get him the ball,” Javens said. “He is so strong and he’s so fundamentally sound. When he gets the ball on the block, he knows what to do with it. He can step out and shoot it. We’re happy he’s here with us.
“Watson is 6-9. He alters the game. He is averaging about 12 blocks per game. Whenever he is out of the lineup, everything changes.”
Foul trouble plagued Watson. He picked up two personals in the game’s first 2:38. Eventually, he fouled out late in the game with nine points.
“The kid is 6-9 and he has good touch,” Corey said. “We preached to our kids that we needed to do a great job of boxing out and try to limit them to one shot. Picking up two quick ones on Watson helped throughout the game.
“I think the change of defenses we had was very good .We ran three or four different zones, a little man and some full-court traps and half-court traps,” he continued. “I thought the large array of defenses that we ran would keep Lincoln Park in check. I wanted them to keep thinking and trying to figure out what we were in.”
Neshannock’s Bobby Nittinger led all players with 32 points. John Sansone added 16.
“I can’t speak enough about how hard our guys played. We need to clean up a couple things,” Corey said. “Lincoln Park is probably one of the best teams in Class A. They are a good team and they present a lot of tough matchups. For us to come in here and do what we did, I am very proud of our team.”