HERSHEY, Pa. — The final chapter of Brandin Cummings’ high school career played out at the Giant Center on Thursday night.

And boy, “giant” would be an appropriate word to describe Cummings’ performance on a night he said provided a “storybook ending” to a magnificent career.

Cummings was masterful, knocking down seven 3-pointers and scoring a career-high 37 points to lead hot-shooting Lincoln Park to a second consecutive PIAA Class 4A title courtesy of an 80-50 mercy-rule win against Archbishop Carroll of the Philadelphia Catholic League.

Just hours after Class 1A Imani Christian etched its name in the history books as the ninth boys team from the WPIAL to repeat as PIAA champions, Lincoln Park (28-3) became the 10th. It was the fourth title overall for the Leopards, all since 2014.

“It’s very surreal,” said Lincoln Park junior Meleek Thomas, the hero of last year’s title game who finished this one with 16 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. “To be one of the top 10 teams to do it, it’s special. It means a lot to us. And we had a chip on our shoulder to do it again. We had a goal. It’s hard to do something like this twice.”

And as Archbishop Carroll found out, it’s hard to beat a team that rarely misses. Lincoln Park put on an offensive clinic, shooting 66% from the field (30 of 45), including 10 of 16 from 3-point range (62%). The Leopards, who won their 20th game in a row, scored 25 points in the first quarter and had 51 by halftime as they built a 29-point advantage. Thomas then scored 10 seconds into the second half to extend the lead to 31, invoking the mercy rule.

From left, Lincoln Park’s Mikey Crawford, Dontay Green, and Dorian McGhee hold up their gold medals after their 80-50 win against Archbishop Carroll in the PIAA Class 4A championship. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Cummings was sensational, going 14 of 18 from the field, 7 of 8 from behind the arc, and 2 of 2 from the free-throw line. The Pitt recruit connected on a jumper for the game’s opening basket, scored 10 points in the first quarter and tallied 19 in the first half. It capped what was an outstanding PIAA run for Cummings, who led the Leopards in scoring in each of the five games while averaging 29.8 points and making 23 3-pointers.

“It’s like a storybook ending,” said Cummings, who scored 2,222 career points. “If you were reading a story and there’s supposed to be a good ending, I feel like the game that I just had would be that ending, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Added Thomas, “He was great. That’s the player he is. He can do that on any level, any stage. His game translates. He’s a dog. He works. And all his work translated tonight.”

Cummings and Thomas capped a memorable two-year run in which they formed one of the top backcourts in the state, if not the country. Lincoln Park improved to 58-4 the past two seasons, which included two section titles, two WPIAL titles and now two PIAA titles. The Leopards were 18-0 in the postseason in that time. Thomas, who is considered one of the nation’s top juniors, has now scored 1,750 points in his career.

“Probably the best two guards in the state in I don’t know how long,” Lincoln Park coach Mike Bariski said.

This PIAA championship win was much different than last season’s, which went down to the wire and saw Lincoln Park edge Neumann-Goretti, 62-58, in a thrilling final. It appeared as if those teams were on a collision course to meet again this season, but Neumann-Goretti was upset by Scranton Prep, which in turn was knocked off by Archbishop Carroll a round later in the semifinals. While talented, Archbishop Carroll is very young, as its entire roster consists of sophomores and freshmen. And on Thursday, that youth showed.

“It was their first time being in this arena seeing what big boy basketball was,” Archbishop Carroll coach Francis Bowe said. “They were fantastic. They acted like and played like they had been here before. And our guys saw that for the first time.”

Meleek Thomas finished with 16 points and a game-high 14 rebounds in Lincoln Park’s 80-50 win against Archbishop Carroll in Thursday’s PIAA Class 4A championship. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Lincoln Park is known for its offense, but the Leopards got after it defensively in the PIAA playoffs, and in its final game limited Archbishop Carroll to 20-of-50 shooting (40%) and just 4 of 18 from 3-point range (22%). Sophomores Luca Foster and Ian Williams scored 12 points apiece, while Munir Greig, a 6-foot-5 freshman who has an offer from Villanova, added 10.

Mikey Crawford, a senior and a Buffalo football recruit, chipped in 15 points for Lincoln Park, which won all but one of its nine postseason games by double digits.

But this night was about Cummings, a kid who grew up in Midland a stone’s throw away from Lincoln Park, and has been hanging around the high school team ever since he was a seventh grader putting up some shots at the team’s practices.

“And [the players] used to go, can you get Nelly’s little annoying brother off the court?,’” Bariski recalled. “Well, I’m glad we didn’t. He’s been around us for six years and I love him.”

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.