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Thomas, Cummings Duo Shines as Lincoln Park Punches Ticket to Petersen Events Center



There may not be a better duo in all of WPIAL basketball than Lincoln Park’s Meleek Thomas and Brandin Cummings. The pair has led No. 1 Lincoln Park back to the Petersen Events Center after defeating No. 5 Highlands 87-64 in the 4A semifinals.

Thomas recorded a game-high 29 points with Cummings not too far behind with 21 of his own.

While the duo has impressed yet again, the bond goes further than just playing on the basketball court, which allows them to be so successful.

“I think we are more of a family,” Cummings said. “Me and Meleek have known each other for a while and we’ve talked about this for a while. When we are on that court, we are really dangerous.”

Thomas and Cummings presented a world of trouble for Highlands who just fell too far behind and had no chance of clawing back as the duo came in waves for the Leopards.

“They are power five players,” Lincoln Park head coach Mike Bariski said. “They feed off of each other. They trade back-and-forth with who’s the leading scorer.”

Thomas drops 29 points in Lincoln Park’s semifinals victory over Highlands.

With the tandem propelling Lincoln Park in the semifinal matchup, the Leopards saw a vast improvement on offense compared to their quarterfinals tilt where they scored 50 points against South Allegheny. 

“Last game, we got taken out of our game a little bit, that’s why we didn’t score as much.” Cummings said. “We are a team that likes to put that ball in the bucket, so we came out here and played our game and they couldn’t stop that.”

There was no shortage of offense from both Lincoln Park (24-1) and Highlands (21-4), but it was Thomas and Cummings that knocked down shot after shot, along with a put-back slam from the latter. The junior Pitt commit ended the first quarter with 11 points while Thomas – one of the top players in the class of 2025 – buried three triples to go along with his 15 first quarter points. 

“We are a high-level scoring team,” Thomas said. “When we are flowing and we know we are in that mode, it’s hard for people to stay in front of us.”

While Lincoln Park caught fire early, Highlands lingered around. Junior guard Cam Reigard hit two threes in quick succession after a timeout in the first quarter as he finished with 12 points. 6-foot-8 forward Bradyn Foster also added six points in the first quarter – on the way to 13 total points – as the Rams trailed by eight. 

After surpassing 20 points in the opening frame, Highlands failed to score more than 14 points in the remaining quarters. The scoring limitation was a testament to the strong defensive presence Lincoln Park played with.

“The game plan was to pressure them with man and we were going to use our zone press somewhere to throw it at them,” Bariski said. “Fortunately, our full court pressure affected them. We were able to put that defensive pressure on them and I think it affected them.”

One player that was specifically impacted by the press was Highlands’ Jimmy Kunst. The 6-foot-3 sophomore led the Rams on the night with 17 points, but Lincoln Park found a way to slow him down.

“Kunst is a great player,” Bariski said.”I think we wore him down a little bit because we full court pressed him the whole game.”

As Lincoln Park began to run away with the contest, the Leopards also saw some important role players aid in the winning effort. Senior DeAndre Moye added 13 points while junior forward Dorian McGhee factored in 12 points as he saw some key minutes in the second half.

“Everybody was involved,” Thomas said. “You could see our bench players get involved. McGhee, our big, got involved. We were on a roll and when everyone’s touching it, nobody is messing with us.”

With the win, Lincoln Park makes its return to the Petersen Event Center after missing out on the 4A title game a year ago. The Leopards will face long-standing rival North Catholic in the championship game after taking care of the Trojans twice this season, both by double digit margins. 

“We got to make sure we focus, we got to be locked in and we got to watch film,” Thomas said “We have to go over everything from the first two times we played them.”

The trip back to the Pete to take on North Catholic marks the fifth time these teams have faced off in the title game in seven years. Even with the momentum from Lincoln Park’s powerful performance against Highlands and the regular season results against the Trojans earlier this year, Bariski is not taking them lightly.

“North Catholic is an extremely difficult team to defend,” he said. “They play a very different kind of high-tempo, big-time college, NBA kind of offense. They want to shoot threes and they’ll let you score too.”

Lincoln Park and North Catholic will tip-off for the WPIAL 4A Championship game at 9:00 p.m. on Friday.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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