MIDLAND, Pa. - Lincoln Park begins its quest for a second-straight WPIAL Class A title tonight, playing Mapletown at Keystone Oaks High School in Dormont, Pa.
The Leopards, the top seed in the Class A field, finished the regular season at 17-5 and carry a six-game win streak into tonight's contest with the 7-16 Maples, winners of a 49-29 WPIAL playoff opener last week vs. Leechburg.
Lincoln Park, No. 3 in the latest PIAA state poll, is the two-time PIAA Class A runner-up, losing last year's title game to Constitution, a Philadelphia public school, by a 68-49 count.
It appears as if the Leopards may again have to get past a familiar foe in second-seeded Vincentian should a WPIAL title be gained. Vincentian defeated Lincoln Park for the Class A crown in the 2010-11 season, before the Leopards topped the Lions in the semifinals last season.
Both teams are considered among the Top 5 teams in the commonwealth this year - Vincentian is ranked No. 5 with a 22-1 mark, including a 106-73 win against Western Beaver in a WPIAL opener last week.
Another Top 5 team is Mathematics, Civics & Sciences, a Philadelphia charter school that defeated Lincoln Park for the 2010-11 PIAA title. MCS is 23-2 and was ranked first in Pennsylvania before a 62-61 loss last week to second-ranked Vaux in the Philadelphia Public League championship game.
As Lincoln Park practiced last week for its expected WPIAL tournament run, one thing did not take place last week as was expected - Kentucky coach John Calipari did not make a visit to the Midland-based charter school.
The veteran college coach, a graduate of Moon Area High School in Moon Township, Pa., was scheduled to attend practice and watch the Leopards' Ryan Skovranko, a 6-foot-6 junior forward.
Apparently, Calipari stayed in Lexington following an injury to his star center Nerlens Nowl, a 6-10 freshman.
Lincoln Park coach Mark Javens seemed to dance around the Calipari visit when the announcement was made early last week.
"Is he coming to see Ryan? Is he coming to see Elijah? Is he coming to see Maverick? Is he coming to see Antonio? Is he coming to see one of them, some of them or all of them? Who knows?" Javens told the Beaver County Times.
There are four underclassmen starters at Lincoln Park considered major college recruits - Skovranko, 6-8 junior forward Elijah Minnie, 6-5 freshman guard Maverick Rowan, and 6-0 sophomore guard Antonio Kellem.
Major college basketball is nothing new to Lincoln Park as 2012 graduate Devontae Watson now attends Temple. The 6-10 frosh has appeared in four games with the Owls.
The Leopards defeated East Liverpool 99-56 earlier this season.