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Boys Basketball: 2017 PIAA Class 3A Semifinal Preview - Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic vs. Lincoln Park

Written by Brad Everett on .

The game: PIAA Class 3A semifinal
The teams: Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic vs. Lincoln Park
Where and when: Ambridge, Monday, 7 p.m.
At stake: PIAA championship game vs. Neumann-Goretti-Del-Val Charter winner Thursday at Giant Center, Hershey, 8 p.m.

Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic Trojans
Record: 24-5
District finish: WPIAL champion
Coach: Dave Long
How they got here: (First round) Bellwood-Antis, 68-51; (Second round) Shady Side Academy, 48-45, OT; (Quarterfinals) Central Cambria, 63-40.
Scoring offense: 55.2 points per game
Scoring defense: 44.2 points per game
What you should know: It's North Catholic-Lincoln Park "Round 2." This is a rematch of the WPIAL championship won by North Catholic, 56-51, at the Petersen Events Center on March 2. North Catholic shot the ball very well in that game, shooting 57 percent from the field and 64 percent from beyond the arc. John Fukon scored 16 points and Zach Offi added 15. But as good as the Trojans were offensively, this is a team that is known for their excellent play defensively. The Trojans allow only 44.2 per game on the season and have not given up more than 51 points in any of their seven playoff games. All of their losses this season have been to out-of-state teams or WPIAL teams from larger classes. The Trojans are making their first semifinal appearance since losing to Imhotep Charter in double overtime in the 2009 final. They have never won the title.
Player to watch: Zach Offi. Ride the hot hand. That's what North Catholic has often been doing with Offi, a 6-3 senior guard who has come up big in the PIAA playoffs. He scored all 18 of his points off of six 3-pointers against Bellwood-Antis and buried the winning 3-pointer just before the overtime buzzer against Shady Side Academy.

Lincoln Park Leopards
Record: 24-5
District finish: WPIAL runner-up
Coach: Mike Bariski
How they got here: (First round) Juniata, 70-39; (Second round) Greenville, 58-46; (Quarterfinals) Washington, 70-58.
Scoring offense: 73.3 points per game
Scoring defense: 60.6 points per game
What you should know: Call this déjà vu for Lincoln Park. Last season, the Leopards lost to Aliquippa in the WPIAL championship. They got a rematch with the Quips in the PIAA semifinals, only to lose to the Quips again. A season later, the Leopards lost to North Catholic in the WPIAL championship and now get the Trojans again in the PIAA semifinals. They hope this rematch ends in a different way. Lincoln Park star Nelly Cummings struggled in the first matchup. He was 4 of 23 from the field and finished with 18 points. Cummings, though, has averaged 24.6 points per game in the PIAA playoffs. He scored 33 against Greenville and 23 against Washington. Lincoln Park is in just its 10th year of existence, but this is already its sixth appearance in the semifinals. The Leopards have reached the final three times, winning the title in 2014.
Player to watch: Nelly Cummings. A 6-foot senior guard, Cummings is the eighth-leading scorer in WPIAL history. A four-year starter, Cummings helped Lincoln Park win the 2014 title and is doing his best to end his career on a similar high note. The Bowling Green recruit averages 29 points per game and has more than 2,300 in his career.

Prediction: Lincoln Park 63, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic 58