March 12, 2008

Lincoln Swims Upstream; Drowns Jefferson

It was business as usual for the Railsplitters, as Lincoln was able to come back from an early deficit to defeat Brooklyn-rival Thomas Jefferson 75-60 en route to another PSAL Championship game.

Jefferson was able to get off to a quick start thanks to the hot hands of freshman guard Davontay Grace. Grace led the rest of his Orange Wave squad to a comfortable 20-9 lead by the time the buzzer sounded to end the first quarter. Lincoln dug themselves into an early hole partly because of shooting 2-11 in the first quarter from the free throw line.

Coach Dwayne "Tiny" Morton's team was able to chip away at the lead as the second quarter wore on. An acrobatic lay-up from junior phenom Lance Stephenson with 3:53 to go in the first half cut the Jefferson lead to 25-19. Although Lincoln was misfiring often from the free throw line, Coach Lawrence Pollard's team found themselves in serious foul trouble as they picked up their tenth team foul with 6:30 to go in the first half, causing them to play more cautiously.

With Stephenson and his teammates hounding talented shooting guard Keith Spellman, they were able to control the tempo of the game and take a 28-27 lead into the locker-room at halftime. Lance Stephenson and Davontay Grace led their respective teams in the first half with 12 points each.

Lincoln came out hot to star the third quarter, as they flipped the script on Thomas Jefferson and took a commanding lead as the second half began. The Coney Island squad went on an 11-0 run to kick off the quarter and forced Jefferson into erratic play offensively. A lay-up from senior big man James Padgett with 3:24 to go in the third quarter pushed Lincoln's lead to 43-30 as Padgett and frontcourt mate Justin Greene continued to control the boards.

However, the Orange Wave would make a come back bid late in the third quarter, as they were able to cut the lead to 45-37 after a Davontay Grace finger roll. Lincoln regained momentum and control of the semifinal match-up on the campus of St. John's, taking a 50-27 lead into the fourth and final quarter.

The Railsplitters were able to remain in solid control of the glass, as that allowed coach Morton's team to continue to dictate the tempo of the game. Both teams traded baskets for much of the final session, as Jefferson's attempt to force turnovers by applying full court pressure proved unsuccessful. Lincoln was able to finish the game on a strong note, sending themselves to a re-match of last season's PSAL title game against Boys & Girls.

Stephenson led his victorious Railsplitters with 25 points, while back-up guard Timothy Flowers contributed 13 points off the bench. Freshman guard Davontay Grace led Jefferson with 25 points, while junior guard Keith Spellman scored only 8 points in the defeat.

"We shot jump shots too early," said Morton, as he added that he believed his team's poor free throw shooting against Jefferson was a "big problem." Lincoln will take on Boys & Girls on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden for the PSAL Championship and the right to play in the New York State Federation tournament.

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