Lancers wary of Lincoln Park, ‘Swat’-son
Mar 18, 2010

Devontae Watson: Teenager or freak of nature?

The Lincoln Park High 6-foot-9 center has the ability to change the entire landscape of a high school boys basketball game.

He averages 12 points, 18 rebounds and 12 blocks per contest.

And, by the way, he’s only a sophomore.

Watson’s presence is the biggest factor in Friday’s PIAA Class A quarterfinal matchup between Lincoln Park and Neshannock.

The two teams will meet at 7:30 p.m. at Chartiers Valley High. The winner will face either Sewickley Academy or Tussey Mountain in the semifinals.

The Lancers and Leopards met twice this season in WPIAL Section 1-A action with Lincoln Park (20-7) winning both matchups by a combined 21 points.

In the first game on Jan. 15, Watson battled early foul trouble and eventually fouled out in the fourth quarter. Neshannock (18-8) took advantage and went on a 19-3 run before falling, 69-64.

On Feb. 15, Watson played a majority of the game as the Leopards were able to clinch the section title thanks to a 78-62 verdict.

Watson scored nine points in the first contest and 13 in the second.

“They edged their way back,” Lincoln Park coach Mark Javens said of the first game. “Obviously, that did play a part with him not being on the floor at times.”

So how does Neshannock combat Watson’s dominating presence in the lane?

Lancers coach John Corey has it down to a science.

“We’ll try to challenge him,” he said. “The big thing is to try and completely get extended into his body. The first game, we were kind of successful at that. You really got to use your body well and protect the ball.”

Corey went on to mention that any shot Watson blocks is as good as a turnover.

“You just have to be really selective in how and when you’re challenging him,” Corey said.

After Watson, the Lancers will have to deal with Chaquille Pratt, who Corey claims is the section’s most valuable player.

Pratt averages 27.6 points a game. The 6-3 junior guard scored 29 and 35 points against Neshannock this season.

Pratt’s performances, however, were canceled out by Neshannock leading scorer Bobby Nittinger’s 32- and 31-point outings. The senior will come into Friday’s game averaging 18.7 ppg.

“I don’t know if he could be stopped,” Javens said of Nittinger. “We’re going to try to slow him down, that’s for sure. We’ll have some things in mind that we’re going to throw at him, but they have a good supporting cast. He’s definitely not the only one.”

Javens was referring to the Lancers’ Joey Fontana (12.2), Brandon Marinelli (12.2) and John Sansone (9.9), who are all averaging at or above double figures.

“I watched them play numerous times,” Javens said. “We know what they do, offensively and defensively. When you get this far, it’s not about the X’s and O’s; you’ve got to match the other team’s intensity. If we can do that, I think we’ll have a good chance.”

Before the season started, critics scoffed at Section 1-A and its slim list of five teams. Lincoln Park, Neshannock and Union were the class of the division, while Western Beaver and Monaca tied for fourth place.

However, only eight teams remain in the PIAA Class A boys playoffs, and two of them are from Section 1-A.

“We always carried ourselves with a lot of confidence,” Corey said on the subject. “We always thought we were one of the best teams as well. I think a lot of people talked down on our section because we didn’t have many teams. I think this shows people how strong our section was.”

Next season, the Neshannock-Lincoln Park rivalry will end as far as section games are concerned. The Lancers will be moving to Class AA next year.

Javens confirmed that the Lancers will remain on the Leopards’ schedule as a nonsection opponent.

“It will be the same,” he said, “but it won’t be the same.”
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