March 29, 2008

Lincoln Advances to Championship

GLENS FALLS, NY- The Abraham Lincoln Railsplitters used their frontcourt strength on Saturday afternoon to top NYPHSAA-champion Bishop Maginn 67-57 and advanced to the New York State Class AA Federation championship game.

Lincoln opened the game by trying to intimidate Maginn with their signature pressure and trapping defense, however the Albany County School remained poised from the opening tap. Both teams were caught in a frantic up and down style early in the game. A dunk from the junior phenom Lance Stephenson, with just over 2:30 left in the first quarter, gave the Brooklyn school an early 11-5 lead. Maginn ended the opening quarter trailing by just two points, 15-13.

The Bishop Maginn Griffins attacked the glass hard despite Lincoln's size advantage in the frontcourt. A Taran Buie three pointer tied the game at 19 with 5:32 to go in the first half. 6'5" senior forward Antonio Davis put in much of the grunt work inside for Bishop Maginn during the first half. With Lincoln beginning to gain control of the tempo of the game, Maginn coach Richard Hurley picked up a technical foul. However, the Griffins rallied behind their frustrated coach, and cut their deficit to 27-24 after a basket and a foul from Bunduka Kargbo. Kargbo also made a major contribution defensively by playing solid defense on the 6'6" Stephenson throughout the game. A fade away jumper on the baseline from Stephenson gave the Railsplitters a 34-26 lead but Griffins guard Khaliq Gross knocked down a corner three pointer at the halftime buzzer to cut the Lincoln lead to 34-29.

While the Albany County team had chances at closing the lead even further, they blew several early transition opportunities in the third quarter. Maginn was dealt a major blow at the 43 second mark of the third quarter when forward Antonio Davis picked up his fourth foul. In addition, when Coach Richard Hurley's squad got their own opportunities to go to the charity stripe they often came up empty handed, as they shot 13-25 in the game from the free throw line. The Section 2 School remained within reaching distance heading into the fourth quarter, down only 50-46.

Stephenson delivered an emphatic blow to open the fourth quarter by slicing through the defense and delivering a powerful one handed dunk to open the Brooklyn school's lead up to 52-46. The Railsplitters turned up the pace and closed the door on the Griffins during the course of the fourth and final quarter. A lay-up from the 6' guard Gross cut the Lincoln lead to 59-54 with 3:30 remaining in the match. A tip in by Justin Greene with 50 seconds remaining gave Lincoln a 63-57 lead, which they would not relinquish, as the Railsplitters went on to win 67-57. Justin Greene led all scorers with 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while fellow senior James Padgett also posted a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards. Bishop Maginn sophomore Taran Buie scored 18 points and grabbed 7 rebounds for the Griffins in their defeat.

Following the game, the Lincoln senior forward Greene believed that him and his fellow forward Padgett's mindset coming into the game played a crucial role in their semifinal victory. "When we get the ball down low our focus is to score or kick the ball back out to our teammates," said Greene following the victory. The Railsplitters will play Holy Cross of Flushing for the New York State Federation championship on Sunday afternoon.


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