It has been a highly anticipated matchup for much of this season. Lincoln Park vs. Vincentian just took a little longer to get here than many expected.
The two Class A powers are offensive juggernauts and many thought they were destined to meet in the WPIAL title game. But Monessen stepped in the way and beat Vincentian in the WPIAL semifinals before losing to Lincoln Park in the title game.
But the PIAA quarterfinals are this weekend and Lincoln Park and Vincentian will finally get to square off. The two meet tonight at North Allegheny (7:30 tipoff).
"You do the old adage thing of taking things one game at a time," said Vincentian coach George Yokitis. "But I do think the kids have been looking forward to this game and the fun of it. I know the school has been looking forward to it. It should be a fun night."
If you like offense and teams that play at a fast pace, then Lincoln Park vs. Vincentian is the ultimate matchup. The ball might be going back and forth like a tennis match. Vincentian averages 91 points a game. The Royals could become the first WPIAL team to finish an entire season averaging 90 points or more since Blackhawk of 1992.
Lincoln Park isn't far behind Vincentian. The Leopards average 84 a game. One would have a hard time finding any PIAA game in years past matching two teams that score this much.
"I would think that it would be high scoring, but only if we can score," Yokitis said. "We'll try to score, but geez, they're so big and long."
Lincoln Park coach Mark Javens said: "You can talk about the offenses in this game but the bottom line is I think defense still wins championships. We have to make sure we defend the basketball."
Although the teams are much alike in points scored, the makeup of the two teams is drastically different. Vincentian doesn't have a starter taller than 6 feet 1. Lincoln Park, meanwhile, starts 6-8 Elijah Minnie, 6-7 Maverick Rowan and 6-7 Ryan Skovranko. Rowan plays guard.
Lincoln Park has given opponents fits with zone defenses that are extended to three-quarter court. Rowan will play the top in the zone, with Skovranko at one wing and athletic 6-1 Antonio Kellem on the other. Minnie plays in the back of the zone.
"I've seen a number of teams that just have trouble seeing over their defense and getting through it," Yokitis said. "If we can get through the initial trap, maybe we can get some decent shots, just like teams do against us because we like to trap. ... We're not a strong rebounding team. If we're hitting our shots, maybe we can keep things interesting for everyone."
Rowan, a sophomore who already has committed to Pitt, leads Lincoln Park in scoring at 25.4 points a game. Minnie averages 16.4 and Kellem 12.7.
For Vincentian, Ryan Wolf, a 5-9 junior guard, averages 23.8 and 6-1 sophomore guard Jamison Nee 14.5. Vincentian presses and traps all over the court and likes to shoot 3-pointers.
"We're looking at the big picture in that we have two games left in front of us to get through in order to get to the big dance [PIAA title game]," Javens said. "We're not going to change much for this game. We'll do what we've done all year along.
"We understand they're a formidable opponent and that we really have to defend, contest shots and rebound. On the other side of the coin, we have to make sure we're taking care of the ball against their defense."