For the fourth time in four years, the Railsplitters of Abraham Lincoln High School are on top of the Public Schools Athletic League.
The Brooklyn AA division champs completed their quest to win another title on Saturday at Madison Square Garden with an impressive 78 to 56 victory over the Knights of John F. Kennedy High School.
The Railsplitters were focused on winning the PSAL AA Championship game from the opening tip. After a jumper by JFK guard Naquan Pierce gave the Knights the first score of the game, the Railsplitters responded with an 8-2 to take the lead. It was a lead Lincoln would never relinquish.
The Railsplitters got off to a surfing start as they closed out the first quarter with an 8-0 run to take a 21 to 12 lead over the Knights. "It was very important (to get off to a good start)," said senior guard Lance Stephenson. "I had to get off to a good start and show everyone that I am not playing and get this game over with in the first half." Stephenson looked dominant in the first half where he scored 16 of his game-high 24 points. The 6-foot-6 senior phenom scored a tough layup in traffic to cap a 14-2 Lincoln run with 6:41 left to play in the second quarter. That basket gave Lincoln its largest lead of the first half and they appeared to be in control leading 27 to 14.
However, the Knights would fight back with an 11-2 run sparked by guards Jeffrey Arzu (12 points) and Naquan Pierce (17 points) to cut the Railsplitter lead to four points. A Pierce three pointer would trim the lead to 33 to 31 with 1:42 left in the firs half, but that was as close as the Knights would get. With Stephenson sitting on the bench with two fouls the Railsplitters finished the quarter on an 8-0 run as the scored on three JFK turnovers
With a 41-31 advantage at halftime, Lincoln appeared to be in control and then cruised in the third quarter. The Railsplitters held the Knights to just nine points in the third quarter and once again closed out a quarter strongly with a 10-3 run. With a 16 point lead heading into the fourth quarter the game was all but over and when the final buzzer sounded Lincoln seniors Lance Stephenson and Darwin Ellis had made history. The senior duo accomplished a very special feat winning a PSAL title during each of the four years they played varsity basketball.
"They can't say anything to us now," said Ellis. "Batman and Robin! We just retired ourselves." Stephenson was not the only senior with major contribution in Lincoln's historic victory as Ellis scored 15 points and center James Padgett dominated inside scoring 17 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. "It feels to good win especially for my coach," said Padgett who won 2 titles with Lincoln.
Lincoln's coach, Dwayne Morton, captured his seventh PSAL title in the highest classification with Saturdays win. Although Morton could not compare the importance of winning this championship to others, he was very happy for his team especially the two he coached for the past four years. "Those guys are amazing," said Morton. "Lance and Buddah (Ellis) will always have a special place in my heart."
For now the Railsplitters will have a special place in history with their four consecutive PSAL championships. While it has been said that records are meant to be broken, Stephenson feels what he has accomplished may never be broken. "Its so much hard work to do this and for the next kid its going to be tough, said Stephenson who wanted to win more championships at Lincoln than Sebastian Telfair. "You have to get that player that you are going to bond with. I don't think anyone is going to break this record. It takes work and you have to practice."
As history has been made with Stephenson, Ellis and Morton, it sure may be awhile before we see championship feat this dominant for four years in the PSAL and history is made again.
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