Leaping isn't always all it's cracked up to be. In fact, sometimes you can darn near crack open your head.

As an eighth-grader at Elverson Middle School, Malik Tinsley kept soaring higher and higher and - Thump! - reached the point where he could dunk the ball with something approaching ease.

"That was exciting. I wanted to do it more and more," he said. "My fans were always asking for it, too."

Then he enrolled at Frankford High and, during a workout, found that slamming and hot-dogging is not a good mix.

"I was hanging on the rim," he said. "I slipped off and fell in a bad way and hit my head. That gave me a light concussion. After that, really, I was kind of scared to go the hole like I used to."

OK, so that's a rough way to learn a lesson that would have been needed at some point anyway, but Tinsley isn't complaining. The 6-6, 180-pound power forward is now a senior and - you got it - a much more complete player.

That much was evident yesterday as the Pioneers rolled past visiting William Penn, 71-54, in a Public B game. Tinsley shot 8-for-13 from the floor en route to 21 points and one of the buckets came on a trey. He also totaled 13 rebounds, five steals and two blocked shots.

Dunks? Did you have to ask?

One was wiped out because of traveling. Another resulted in a miss, along with some laughs.

"I got a steal and a great chance for a slam was there," Tinsley said. "But as I was going up, the ball slipped out of my one hand and I tried to grab it with two. I did that OK, but I didn't have great control. The ball kind of went in, then popped out.

"All the fans went, 'Oh!' They were saying, 'C'mon, Malik. You're supposed to dunk that.' "

Tinsley credits coach Ben Dubin and assistant Howard Griffith with his gradual improvement.

"They always tell me how important hard work is, how you always have to do things to get better," Tinsley said. "And that it starts with defense. Before practice I'm always shooting jumpers so I can get better at that. And when I'm around my way [7th and Huntingdon], I go to the rec center and shoot a lot of jumpers there, too.

"I pay attention to how I'm doing, and I react off that. If I'm not hitting my shots, I'll take it to the hole."

Said Dubin: "I'm pleased how Malik has grown emotionally. That has allowed him to take his game to the next level. Rider and Penn State are looking at him and potential-wise, he's one of the most talented kids around."

Steve Haynes added 19 points for the Pioneers while Malik Ballard posted nine assists and five steals. Mark Allen (19) and Brandon Tondreau (18) scored well for Penn. *