Lincoln Park stands tall against ’Canes
Lincoln Park (59) Vs. New Castle (47)
By Andrew Koob
New Castle News
The New Castle High boys basketball team couldn’t conquer a size issue Saturday night.
Lincoln Park’s Dermotti Welling stood tall, literally and figuratively, on the Methany Fieldhouse court at Geneva College on Saturday night.
The 6-foot-8 Leopards junior played the role of rim protector in a 59-47 win over the Red Hurricane in a clash of reigning state champions at the Hoops for a Cure Shootout.
“You can’t teach 6-8,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “I think he was fabulous (Saturday night). He blocked a bunch of shots, rebounded the ball well. When we had opportunities, he was that rim protector for them that a lot of teams don’t have. They played well, Lincoln Park played very, very well.”
Welling’s only points came from the free-throw line, going 6 for 6 from the stripe, but his dominance on the boards helped the Leopards hold a 35-27 rebound advantage.
“What happened (Saturday night) was Dermotti Welling showed up to play,” Lincoln Park coach Mike Bariski said. “He did a good job on the boards, he had a lot of blocks and protected the basket. He hasn’t done that for us, but he stepped up (Saturday night) and that’s the big thing.”
Lincoln Park had two players, Welling and Mike Smith, at 6-foot-3 or taller. New Castle’s tallest player to check into the game, D’Marcus Blanchard, is listed at 6-foot-1.
“I think the difference in the game was, one, they made some great plays and made some tough shots,” Blundo said. “But their overall length in so many aspects of that game, whether it was attacking our pressure or finishing offensive rebounds or cleaning up defensive rebounds, the overall length was the difference. They played really hard, I think Lincoln Park is good enough to do it again this year and win another state championship. Credit to them.”
Nellie Cummings shouldered the scoring load for Lincoln Park, tallying a game-high 21 points.
Marcus Hooker led the ’Canes with 11 points and seven rebounds.
Lincoln Park opened the game on a 10-2 run, led by Cummings. New Castle came right back with a 10-4 run of its own at the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second to make it a one possession game.
The ’Canes took their only lead of the game after a Blanchard layup with less than a minute left in the first half gave them a 27-26 lead. Zay Craft took the lead right back with a bucket of his own and the Leopards never relinquished the advantage.
New Castle had trouble hitting the deep shot and free throws throughout the game. The ’Canes hit only five of their 21 three-point attempts (23 percent) and converted two of their nine opportunities at the charity stripe (22 percent).
“I just think we didn’t shoot it great,” Blundo. “They’re so long, I think that their length really bothered us. That’s really a good basketball team. They were just a better team than us (Saturday night).
“We’ve been excellent from the free-throw line for the last seven, eight games. We’ve been shooting over 80 percent from the line. We weren’t very good (Saturday). That’s basketball, we’ll work on it and get better at it.”
Both Lincoln Park, the Class A state champions before moving up to Class AA, and New Castle, the reigning AAAA state champions that moved down to Class AAA, know that this matchup of WPIAL and state power programs will only help moving forward, win or lose.
“We don’t like to lose, but we’re certainly not afraid to take a loss,” Blundo said. “We play teams that we think are better than us and we thought that (Saturday night), Lincoln Park just played a great game. It’s great for us moving forward, I think we’ll be better because of (Saturday nigh’s) game.”
Bariski and Lincoln Park, which opened in 2006, were pleased to get the win, not only for the extra mark in the win column, but for the prestige of topping on of the WPIAL’s best.
“Besides our state championship games, besides our WPIAL championship games, this could be our biggest win in our short history,” Bariski said. “Great team, great tradition and we like to be talked about in the same sentence as New Castle. When Lincoln Park is talked about, I feel privileged and honored to be talked about in the same conversation as New Castle.
“This is one of the toughest teams this side of the state, I’m glad we got a win. Win or lose, it was a good game. You’d rather win it but, win or lose, it was a good game for us.”