Hampton hoped to make high-powered Lincoln Park play at a slower pace than it’s used to when the teams met Thursday night in WPIAL Class 4A boys basketball championship at Pitt’s Petersen Events Center.

And for the most part, Hampton succeeded, limiting the Leopards to their fewest points in more than two months.

There were two problems, though, and they’re two that all of Lincoln Park’s opponents have had to deal with all season.

Meleek Thomas and Brandin Cummings.

No matter the pace, fast or slow, the two seem to always shine.

Top-seeded Lincoln Park used strong games from their two stars and some excellent defense to repeat as WPIAL champions after a 66-51 win against No. 2 Hampton at Petersen Events Center.

It was the seventh WPIAL title for Lincoln Park (23-3), all since 2013, and the second time the Leopards have repeated as champions. They did the same in 2018 and 2019. Hampton (22-4) was seeking its first WPIAL title since 2009 and second overall. The Talbots were playing in the final for the first time since 2017.

Lincoln Park’s Meleek Thomas was outstanding offensively and defensively while leading Lincoln Park to a second WPIAL title in a row and seventh overall. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Thomas, regarded as one of the nation’s top juniors, scored a game-high 21 points to go along with 10 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists. He also was excellent defensively after drawing the assignment of guarding Hampton star Peter Kramer, a Lehigh recruit who was limited to 6 points, 17 below his average. Kramer was 3 of 17 from the field and didn’t score his first points until the 3:56 mark of the second quarter. Cummings, a Pitt recruit, added 16 points playing on his future home floor with his next coach, Jeff Capel, watching courtside.

“A championship is a championship, but I feel like we were supposed to be here,” Cummings said. “We kind of knew all season that we were going to be here. We expected to win this championship. Personally, I think we all agree that the main goal is a state championship. So of course we’re going to celebrate tonight, but we have another goal to achieve, so we’re going to get right back at it.”

Lincoln Park senior and Pitt recruit Brandin Cummings won his second WPIAL title in a row on his future home court. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Lincoln Park, the defending PIAA champion, came into the game averaging a WPIAL-best 80 points per game and had scored at least 81 in 11 consecutive games before a 74-63 semifinal win against Uniontown. Hampton, which had not allowed a team to reach 60 points since the third game of the season, limited the Leopards to their fewest points since scoring 60 Dec. 20 against a team from Oregon.

“If we kept it in the 60s, I thought we had a good chance,” Hampton coach Joe Lafko said.

But what Lafko likely wasn’t expecting was the defensive performance put on by Lincoln Park, which limited Hampton to its lowest point total since Jan. 12. The Talbots committed 14 turnovers (compared to just 5 for Lincoln Park) and went 3 of 13 from 3-point range. And with their star player being blanketed by Thomas and company throughout, the Talbots never could really get into a great offensive rhythm.

“These guys stepped up,” Lincoln Park coach Mike Bariski said. “We didn’t let the ball be reversed. We didn’t let them handle the ball without pressure. If you go into the locker room, it has three big words — pressure, pressure, pressure. We can play defense when we want to play defense and they stepped up tonight.”

Added Thomas, “I take pride in defense. The more you get into the season, the harder the games become. The atmospheres become bigger. Everything just gets more serious, more intense. So if I would have lollygagged around on defense, he would have gotten comfortable and it could have been a whole different game.”

Hampton’s Alex Nyilas scored 16 points and made all three of Hampton’s 3-pointers in the loss Thursday night to Lincoln Park in the WPIAL Class 4A championship at Petersen Events Center. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Winners of 15 in a row, Lincoln Park trailed Hampton, 12-9, late in the first quarter before Thomas scored on a follow and Mikey Crawford on a 3-pointer to give the Leopards a 14-12 lead after one quarter. Lincoln Park led by 10 points at the half before Hampton trimmed its deficit to 40-35 after a 3-pointer from Alex Nyilas with 3:05 left in the third, but the Leopards quickly increased the lead back to 10 and the Talbots never got within 9 the rest of the game.

Hampton was led by 6-foot-9 senior forward Liam Mignogna, who finished with 20 points and 9 rebounds. Nyilas added 16 points and made all three of Hampton’s 3-pointers.

“When you play a really good team like Lincoln Park, you have to play one of your better games,” Lafko said, “and we did not across the board tonight.”

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

Brad Everett

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