When Lincoln Park played in the WPIAL Class A championship a year ago, Trey Hosack was not on the team. He wasn't even in A.J. Palumbo Center.
"I was playing in a CYO championship game," Hosack said. "I tried to get here, but by the time I made it, [the game] was over."
Hosack, a 6-foot senior guard, certainly showed up Friday night in the WPIAL Class A title game for the Lincoln Park Leopards.
Hosack scored a game-high 27 points, 16 in the first half, in leading Lincoln Park to a 74-57 victory against section rival Cornell. It is the Midland-based charter school's first WPIAL title.
The Leopards (22-4), who lost in the WPIAL final the past two seasons, will take on the fourth-place team in District 9 -- the loser of today's the Elk County Catholic-Clarion-Limestone game -- in the first round of the PIAA playoffs Friday. Cornell (19-6) will take on the District 10 runner-up the same night in the PIAA tournament.
Hosack was ineligible to play last year for Lincoln Park because he transferred to Ambridge before the season. The WPIAL and PIAA said the move was for athletic intent and so he missed a season of varsity basketball, even though he went back to Lincoln Park.
Two years ago, Hosack saw a couple of minutes of action in the final when Lincoln Park lost to Sewickley Academy. All of which made Friday night's contest at Palumbo Center all the more important to him.
"I didn't want us to lose, which is why I gave it 125 percent out there," said Hosack, who connected on 10 of 18 field-goal attempts and was 2 of 7 from 3-point range.
While his teammates struggled offensively in the first quarter -- the Leopards were 7 of 19 from the floor -- Hosack was on fire. He hit on three of his first four shots and scored eight of the Leopards' 17 points in the period.
"He's a money player," Lincoln Park coach Mark Javens said when asked about Hosack. "We need him to touch the basketball as much as he can, just like we need to get Devontae [Watson] his touches."
Watson, Lincoln Park's 6-10 senior center, also had a gold-medal performance. He fouled out with 3:01 remaining but finished with 17 points, 17 rebounds and 8 blocks. A Temple recruit, Watson has 981 blocks for his high school career.
It was the third time this season Lincoln Park defeated Cornell. But the Raiders didn't go down easily,. Despite being at a distinct size disadvantage -- Rodney Payne, a 6-2 senior, is Cornell's tallest starter -- the Raiders hung around for much of the game. Cornell tried to rally after Watson fouled out. The Raiders trailed, 67-53, with 2:01 left after Corey Mackey scored on a layup. But Lincoln Park's Jaylyn Cottrill, a 6-5 junior who finished with 11 points, scored off a rebound and Lincoln Park then came up with a steal and a basket by freshman guard Antonio Kellem to put the game away.
"We're a team and we play as a team," Watson said. "When some guys aren't playing well we have others who will pick things up."
Still, Javens was nervous until the final minute.
"With three minutes left to go it was still a 15-point game and anything can happen, " he said. "We talked a lot about being on the big stage and about finishing. We finished out there [Friday night]."
First Published March 3, 2012 5:00 AM