North Catholic shot 59% from the floor and had a player pour in 32 points Friday, but it still wasn’t enough to beat arguably the WPIAL’s best team in any classification.
Meleek Thomas scored 25 points and Brandin Cummings added 22 as No. 1 Lincoln Park pulled away in the fourth quarter to capture its sixth WPIAL title via a 78-68 win against No. 6 North Catholic in the Class 4A championship game at Pitt’s Petersen Events Center.
“I’ve seen them play for a number of years, and I can’t think of a Lincoln Park team that plays this hard,” North Catholic coach Jim Rocco said. “When you combine that level of talent with that level of effort, you’ve got a really special group.”
Lincoln Park (25-1) beat North Catholic (19-7) twice by 16 points during the regular season. The margin of victory may have not been 16 this time, but the outcome was even sweeter considering it came on the WPIAL’s grandest stage. It’s the fourth WPIAL title in six years for high-powered Lincoln Park, which actually exceeded its scoring average of 76 points a game, highest in the WPIAL. In addition to getting a combined 47 points from its two stars, the Leopards also got 12 points from DeAndre Moye.
“I feel like we can compete with anybody, especially with me and Brandin and the level that we play at,” Thomas said. “The standards that we set for ourselves is like we can’t be beat and we’ll go up against anybody in the WPIAL, the state or the country.”
North Catholic fell short of winning its sixth WPIAL title and first since 2020 despite an exceptional performance from guard Andrew Maddalon, who pumped in 32 points on 14 of 19 shooting. Max Hurray chipped in 19 points and Matt Ellerty added nine, all on 3-pointers.
Lincoln Park was the heavy favorite Friday, but North Catholic was more than up for the challenge. Maddalon scored 19 points in the first half when North Catholic trailed just 39-33. The Trojans made a charge in the third quarter and took a 52-51 lead on Maddalon’s two free throws with 1:41 left. Lincoln Park eventually took a 55-54 lead to the fourth.
“That happens to us a lot,” Lincoln Park coach Mike Bariski said. “There have been some close games, but in the fourth quarter we pull away.”
The Leopards did that Friday, too. And Thomas, a 6-foot-4 guard and one of the nation’s top sophomores, was a big reason why. After scoring 12 points the first three quarters, Thomas tallied 13 in the fourth. As usual, he was the perfect complement to Cummings, a junior guard and Pitt recruit who had a great night on his future home floor. Cummings scored 16 of his points in the first half and had 20 through three quarters.
“I know a lot of people are going to come out and see me play,” Cummings said. “Everybody knows I’m a Pitt commit. I really just want to put on a show for my fans and my family, especially at my future home.”
Lincoln Park began the fourth quarter on a 13-4 run to take a 68-58 lead with just under four minutes left. Max Rottmann buried a 3-pointer to trim North Catholic’s deficit to 68-61, but that’s as close as the Trojans would get.
Afterward, Rocco spoke glowingly of Lincoln Park’s terrific tandem of Cummings and Thomas.
“You’re talking about the two best players in the area. I believe that,” Rocco said. “I believe that Cummings will be in a position to get significant minutes for the University of Pittsburgh in the ACC as a freshman. Meleek is a top 10 player in the country. If Meleek was at Sierra Canyon or if he was at Montverde Academy, he’d be one of their best players. That’s how good he is. And they’re humble guys who play hard. They’re super kids.”
Lincoln Park, which shot 51% from the field (30 of 58), owned the boards, outrebounding North Catholic, 34-18, overall and 19-6 on offensive rebounds. Thomas had a game-high 14 rebounds while also adding 5 steals and 4 assists.
“We were in a good spot for most of the game,” Rocco said. “We just had to be fundamentally sound and really sure of what we were doing. We just turned it over a little bit too much. I thought we rushed a couple of things offensively and fundamentally just broke down a little bit.”