Another year, another PSAL Brooklyn Championship for the Lincoln Railsplitters.
Shaking off fatigue from a busy recent schedule that included a game in New Jersey earlier the same day, Lincoln smothered Jefferson 81-61 on Sunday to claim yet another borough title.
The rematch of last year's championship game played out almost identically to the previous showdown, with Jefferson staying close for a quarter, then Lincoln gradually pulling away.
Davontay Grace nailed a three-pointer to put Jefferson up 5-2 early in the first, but recent St. Francis commit Darwin "Budha" Ellis soon answered with a three-pointer for Lincoln. Joel Wright gave the Orange Wave a one-point lead on a fast break lay-up off an assist from Corwin Austin, but the sharp shooting Ellis again canned a three, putting Lincoln ahead 9-7. Jefferson would never see the lead again.
Wright did his best to keep Jefferson alive, but without guards Keith Spellman and David Coley, both of whom were nursing injuries, it wasn't nearly enough.
Up 19-16 early in the second quarter, Lincoln put together a 10-0 run to gain separation. Jefferson scored the last four points of the half to come within 39-30, but after a fast break lay-up by Shaquille Stokes, Lincoln's lead never dipped back below double digits.
Down by as many as 22, Jefferson managed a 13-2 run late in the third quarter to slim the deficit to 55-45, but once again, Lincoln re-broke, responding with a 14-3 spurt to ice the win.
The Railsplitters have taken on an arduous schedule this season and have suffered a surprising amount of losses, the most recent of which came just hours before tip-off against Jefferson at Long Island University's Brooklyn Campus. Lincoln fell to national powerhouse Westchester (CA) at the Primetime Shootout in Trenton, NJ on Sunday afternoon before traveling back to Brooklyn.
"I was nervous about these guys being mentally and physically tired," Lincoln coach Dwayne "Tiny" Morton said. "You've got to be lucky to win games like this."
Lincoln guard Lance Stephenson shrugged off any fatigue, scoring 23 points and in the process, becoming New York State's career scoring leader, passing fellow Lincoln legend Sebastian Telfair.
"We're built for this," Stephenson said afterwards. "We got prepared for it early."
Stephenson scored the record-breaking bucket just three seconds into the game, taking the opening tip and scoring on a breakaway. Play was stopped briefly to honor Stephenson, who for his part, says he wasn't trying to set any records.
"I really wasn't trying to break this record," Stephenson said, "It just happened. I worked hard for it and I think I earned it."
Stephenson, Ellis (18 points), James Padgett (18) and Stokes (14) combined for 73 of Lincoln's 81 points.
Wright led Jefferson with 22 points, but the Fordham commit picked up two technical fouls for arguing with officials along the way and was consequently ejected (which may have consequence during PSAL championships). Austin added 14 for the Orange Wave while Davontay Grace chipped in a quiet 12.
Go to NYC Hoops for all the late breaking NYC basketball news and rankings plus access to FREE BASKETBALL WEBCASTS.