Coach George Yokitis had agonized for days over strategy. He knew his Vincentian boys basketball team was undermanned against powerful Lincoln Park, so he thought about playing a junk defense.
Then, Yokitis thought about going against how his aggressive team had played defense all season and pull back into a straight zone. He also thought about staying with a full-court press or maybe trying a half-court trap.
On offense, he thought about trying not to play as fast as usual and holding the ball a little.
It turned out Yokitis tried all the above. Nothing worked.
Lincoln Park flexed its muscles and punished another opponent, this time rolling past Vincentian, 99-64, in a PIAA Class A quarterfinal game Friday night at North Allegheny.
Lincoln Park, the No. 1-ranked Class A team in the state, is 28-1.
"I was working out [Friday] and I must have had 12 people tell me what I should try," said Yokitis. "It ran from slowing it down, to playing even faster than you usually do. You saw it. We tried everything. We did what we could. I don't know. Does anyone have any better ideas?"
Vincentian's misery has plenty of company. Lincoln Park has played seven postseason games (WPIAL and PIAA), and the Leopards have won them by a whopping, 44-point average.
It was thought maybe Vincentian (24-4) could score enough to possibly give Lincoln Park a game. Vincentian came in averaging 91 points. But Vincentian didn't have a starter taller than 6 feet 1, while Lincoln Park has 6-8 forward Elijah Minnie, 6-7 forward Ryan Skovranko and 6-7 guard Maverick Rowan. Lincoln Park's size in its trapping zones gave Vincentian many problems.
Still, how many teams make 14 3-pointers in a game and lose by 35? But that was Vincentian's plight as the Royals made 14 of 33 behind the arc. But Lincoln Park was too big, too strong and too good.
The Leopards got another terrific performance from Rowan, a sophomore who has accepted a scholarship to Pitt. Rowan had 37 points and nine rebounds, making 14 of 23 shots from the field, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range. Minnie added 19 points and 11 rebounds, Skovranko 14 points and guard Nelly Cummings 14.
"I'd like to say how well they played and how well-coached they are and what great kids they are," Yokitis said. "There is no trash talking from them. They're all just playing basketball. I think sometimes they get an unfair rap, but I like those kids and I think their coaches do a good job."
Senior forward Jim Kenna led Vincentian with 20 points, including four 3-pointers. Junior guard Ryan Wolf added 16 and sophomore guard Jamison Nee 14.
"Vincentian is a very good team, there's no doubt about that," said Lincoln Park coach Mark Javens. "But I have to give my guys credit. We did a lot of good things tonight."
Vincentian started in a triangle-and-two defense on Rowan and Cummings. Then they went to a box-and-one on Rowan. But Skovranko hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter.
"I've never seen him shoot like that, so there went Plan A," Yokitis said.
Lincoln Park led, 23-17, after the first quarter and by 34-25 with 3:20 left in the half. But the Leopards closed the half on a 14-2 run to take a 48-27 lead. Vincentian couldn't recover as the Royals were held to their lowest offensive output of the season.
Other Class A game
- Bishop Carroll 63, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic 59: John Savulchak had 21 points, but the Trojans offense went stagnant in the final minutes in an overtime loss to the District 6 champion Huskies (28-0) at Gateway. North Catholic stormed from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to take a 51-49 lead with less than 10 seconds remaining. Brandon Martinazzi, however, made a tying shot as the clock expired. In overtime, with North Catholic (17-11) down three and less than five seconds remaining, Ryan Kirby missed a potential tying 3-pointer that sealed the loss. Martinazzi led all scorers with 22 points.
For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.