Lincoln Park boys beat Monessen, 85-41, in WPIAL Class A basketball championship

Not even 30 minutes removed from Lincoln Park's dominant win in the WPIAL Class A championship, Elijah Minnie thought of his team's bus ride that afternoon.

On the roughly 35-mile trip from the charter school's Midland campus to Palumbo Center, there was silence on a vehicle normally reserved for yelling and running around, particularly before big games.

To Minnie, the lack of noise spoke volumes.

Lincoln Park 85, Monessen 41

Lincoln Park takes on Monessen in WPIAL Championship basketball action. (Video by Justin K. Aller; 02/28/2014)

"I knew we came here for a reason," he said.

For the team and its spindly 6-foot-9 senior, that turned out to be the case.

Standing 8 inches above the tallest opponent, Minnie was routinely overwhelming Friday night, finishing with 20 points, 16 rebounds and 11 blocks as the Leopards rolled to an 85-41 victory against Monessen.

"This is what I've been wanting for the past two seasons," Minnie said.

"At Summit Academy, I got upset in the first round as a No. 3 seed, last year we were a No. 1 seed and got upset.

"I wanted this so bad, and my team wanted this so bad. Most of us are seniors, and we just couldn't leave Lincoln Park senior year without a WPIAL championship."

The 44-point margin of victory was the largest in WPIAL Class A history. It was yet another blowout win for the Leopards (25-1), who beat their previous 24 opponents by an average of 35.2 points.

Maverick Rowan, a Pitt recruit, scored a game-high 25 points for Lincoln Park, which won its second WPIAL championship in the past three years.

For a Class A school with an uncommon amount of height and Division I talent, the game's opening moments came as a surprise to many with Monessen rushing to a 7-0 lead in the first 1:19.

From then on, however, little went right for the Greyhounds (20-6).

Largely benefitting from turnovers and blocked shots that led to fastbreaks, the Leopards came back quickly and owned a six-point lead at the start of the second quarter.

From there, things only got worse for Monessen. The Greyhounds made only 1 of 12 shots in the second quarter and turned the ball over seven times, seemingly all of which led to easy scoring opportunities for Lincoln Park.

"We call it 'organized mayhem,' and that's what we do," Lincoln Park assistant coach Mike Bariski said. "It looks like we're running all over the place, but everybody knows where they're supposed to be when something happens in that pressure.

"Our defensive pressure creates our offense, no doubt about it."

By halftime, the Leopards led, 47-21, having made 21 of 33 shots and scoring 47 of the final 61 points in the half.

Javon Brown and Jaden Altomore each had 10 points for Monessen, who had won 17 of its previous 18 games.

Despite the lopsided final score, there wasn't an overwhelming sense of disappointment for the Greyhounds.

They realized they had run into a team that has been so far above so much of its competition this season.

"No one likes to lose, but the thing is, I have no Division I ballplayers on that squad," Monessen coach Joe Salvino said.

"They have like six. They're good, there's no doubt about that.

"If we've got to play by the rules, that's what happens."

Craig Meyer: and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.

First Published February 28, 2014 8:50 PM

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