Playing a team that just like itself had not dropped a game to a WPIAL opponent this season, Lincoln Park fell into a 10-point hole with just a few minutes left in the third quarter Saturday night.

Not that there was a tremendous amount of concern or worry on the Leopards’ end.

“When we get down, it’s usually because of a few defensive lapses or mental lapses, or maybe because of taking the wrong shot,” Lincoln Park assistant coach Will Lucas said. “But once we kind of lock in and refocus, we know that with the firepower that we have we’re never really out of a game.”

Behind a second-half surge, Class 4A Lincoln Park rallied for an 83-74 win against Class 1A Imani Christian in a wildly entertaining matchup of defending PIAA champions at North Allegheny.

With future college coach Jeff Capel watching courtside, Pitt recruit Brandin “Beebah” Cummings scored 27 points and five-star junior Meleek Thomas added 26 to help Lincoln Park (19-3) run its win streak to 11 games. Nate Brazil pumped in a game-high 31 points for Imani Christian (11-11), which saw its five-game win streak snapped. The Saints fell to 10-1 against WPIAL foes. Eight of their losses are to out-of-state opponents and two others to Philadelphia power Neumann-Goretti.

Following a back-and-forth first half, Imani Christian used a 10-0 run to take a 57-47 lead with 3:34 left in the third quarter on a 3-pointer from Brazil, who had five triples in the game. But with that punch came a counterpunch, as Lincoln Park outscored Imani Christian, 15-3, the rest of the quarter to take a 62-60 advantage. Thomas tallied nine points, including a 3-pointer and an old-fashioned three-point play, in the run.

Lincoln Park wasn’t done running, though. After Imani Christian pulled even, 66-66, on Avery Wesley’s basket with 6:55 remaining, Lincoln Park went on a 10-2 run culminated by a Cummings dunk that extended his team’s lead to 76-68 with 3:30 to go. The Saints pulled no closer than five points the rest of the way.

It marked the ninth consecutive game that Lincoln Park has scored at least 82 points. A night earlier, the Leopards poured in 102 against Blackhawk. The Leopards are averaging a staggering 89.8 points a game during that time.

“We have a bunch of guys who can score the ball and we can play a variety of ways,” Lucas said. “Obviously, it starts with Meleek and Beebah, but it’s a total team effort.”

Rhaki Lum chipped in 12 points for Lincoln Park, while Mikey Crawford, who earlier in the week committed to play football at Buffalo, added seven.

Lincoln Park was 28 of 62 from the field (45%) and 21 of 32 from the free-throw line (65%). Imani Christian finished a scorching 30 of 54 from the field (60%) and was 5 of 13 from the line (38%).

Imani Christian, which lost to Lincoln Park, 77-74, to open the 2022-23 season, came ready to play Saturday. Brazil scored 11 points and recent Penn State football commit Dayshaun Burnett had six in a first quarter that saw the Saints shoot 9 of 14 from the field to take a 21-17 lead. 

Thomas and Cummings then combined to score 22 of Lincoln Park’s 24 points in the second quarter (each had 11 in the frame) to take a 41-37 halftime lead on Thomas’ buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

“I thought they moved the ball well and I thought that they came out a little hungrier than us,” Lucas said. “This was our fourth game in five days, so maybe we were a little fatigued coming out early, but they just came out and punched us in the mouth. They moved the ball well, played hard, played physical. A little inside out game. R.J. can pretty much get to the hole pretty much at will. Nate was knocking down shots from the perimeter after that. They definitely played well.”

When the WPIAL playoffs get underway next week, Lincoln Park and Imani Christian will both open as heavy favorites to win titles in their respective classes.

But before then, the two powers put on a show Saturday in their playoff tune-up.

Said Lucas, “Good atmosphere, the top two teams in the WPIAL, and pretty entertaining for the fans.”

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Brad Everett

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at