By ANDY CLOSE
JOHNSONBURG — After losing to Johnsonburg in the Class A state semifinals last season, Lincoln Park was anxious for another chance to play the Rams.
A 19-2 fourth quarter run assured the Leopards a measure of revenge, as they came away with a 77-59 victory Tuesday.
“It’s just one game at a time,” said Lincoln Park coach Mark Javens. “We understand there’s a chance we could see them down the road and we were looking for good competition. It was a good game, and fortunately for us we got the win.”
Lincoln Park’s fourth-quarter surge was tough to see coming, as the Rams ended the third quarter riding a wave of momentum.
Trailing by 12, 51-39, they closed the third quarter on a 10-2 run, capped by a pair of steals by Cameron Grumley that turned into easy baskets on the other end for both himself and fellow all-state guard Cole Peterson.
“We were right there going into the fourth,” said Johnsonburg coach Bill Shuey, whose team was playing on back-to-back nights. “Maybe we did hit the wall as far as fatigue goes, but we did take some ill-advised shots in that fourth quarter that resulted in some of their scores. And they were making their shots.”
Lincoln Park certainly did that in the second half, thanks in part to a balanced scoring attack that saw five players — Elijah Minnie, Maverick Rowan, Ryan Skovranko, Nelly Cummings and Antonio Kellem all score in double figures.
It was Rowan, the 6-6 sophomore and Pitt commit that sparked the run that put the game away.
Seven seconds into the fourth quarter, he drilled a three from the corner to put the Leopards up seven.
An alley-oop from Rowan to Minnie and another bucket from Rowan game LP an 11-point lead, and they led by double-digits the rest of the way.
“It got into a little bit of a track meet in the fourth quarter and that was our downfall,” Shuey said. “We knew it was going to be a game of runs.”
The game was much closer and more competitive then the score would indicate, especially in the first half.
Lincoln Park (4-0) jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead, but Johnsonburg (6-1) rattled of the next 11 points, and led for most of the first half.
Grumley scored the first six points of the games for J’burg, and Cole Peterson was hot from three, knocking down three long-balls in the first half.
Javens acknowledged that, despite seeing Johnsonburg last season, his team may have been caught just a little bit off guard by the senior guard tandem.
“I think even this year, Cole and Cameron took our kids by surprise,” Javens said of Peterson and Grumley, who finished with 21 and 20 points respectively. “They’re good guards. They can both shoot it and I think once we got into the game our kids realized just how fast they were.”
The Rams led by as many as 10 twice in the first half, and pulled ahead 31-21 on a drive to the hoop by Grumley with 4:20 left in the half.
Cummings, just a freshman and the only new starter for the Leopards, kept them in the game early with 11-first half points.
He helped key a 13-2 run to close the half, that ended with three’s from Skovranko and Kellem to give LP a one-point halftime lead.
“Playing in a game like this, a playoff atmosphere, will hopefully prepare the boys to play in the playoffs at a high-level,” Shuey said. “I’m satisfied with what we did. This is the No. 2 team in the state and I thought we did OK.”
For Lincoln Park, turning up the defense in the second half was key.
“At halftime we told our guys we have to put a hand in Grumley’s face and Peterson’s face,” Javens said. “We told them we have to contest shots and in the second half we adjusted a little bit.”
After playing seven games in the first two-plus weeks of the regular season, Johnsonburg is now off until Dec. 26 when they take part in the three-day EQT Energy Classic.
LINCOLN PARK (77)
Antonio Kellem 4-4-4-14, Nelly Cummings 5-3-4-15, Maverick Rowan 6-1-2-16, Ryan Skovranko 6-0-0-13, Elijah Minnie 9-1-1-19, Chris Pipkin 0-0-0-0, Totals 30-9-11-77
Cameron Grumley 7-4-6-20, Cole Peterson 8-2-4-21, C.J. Herbstritt 2-0-0-5, Kevin Benson 3-0-0-6, Zane Hodgkin 2-1-2-5, Taylor Feronti 1-0-0-2, Christian Cherry 0-0-0-0, Totals 23-7-12-59
Lincoln Park 13 21 19 24—77
Johnsonburg 22 11 16 10—59
Three-point FGs: Lincoln Park — 9 (Rowan 3, Cummings 3, Kellem 2, Skovranko 1); Johnsonburg — 6 (Peterson 3, Grumley 2, Herbstritt 1)