NEW YORK, NY - The PSAL championship was played at Madison Square Garden Saturday afternoon between Lincoln and Jefferson, two of the heavyweight programs in the city. It was a game of runs, with each team having momentum throughout the contest.
After Jefferson came out after the half and scored the first 10 points, Lincoln was able to answer with a devastating 18-1 run to propel them to their first city title in four years.
Lincoln showed they were the better team yesterday, dominating the boards on their way to a 65-52 victory. They were the bigger team and crushed Jefferson by a 50-36 margin in the rebound department. Game MVP Desi Rodriguez, a 6-5 junior forward, scored 16 points while grabbing 17 boards. He had a double-double by halftime and was set up like a piece of furniture on the block. His teammates did an excellent job of driving to the bucket and drawing the defender away from him, then finding him with a little dump off for easy lay-ups inside.
Rodriguez dominated inside the paint, but he had a lot of help from senior forward Elijah Davis. Davis was terrific all game, putting the ball on the floor and scoring in a variety of ways. Davis was the high scorer in the game with 18 points and he shot 9 of 12 from the field for the game. Davis also had 4 assists.
Big time talent Isaiah Whitehead was in foul trouble for most of the game. He came out hot in the first quarter, knocking down two three pointers to help Lincoln jump out to an early lead. He picked up his second foul midway through the 2nd quarter and his coach Dwayne "Tiny" Morton put him on the bench the rest of the first half. Whitehead may not have been the player who was the most valuable for his team this game, but he still finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He basically just stepped back and let his teammates take the wheel and drive the bus. He also made a couple of eye opening assists that showed just how big time the 6-4 junior guard is.
Jefferson came to play, but they were severely outplayed on the boards. In addition to not being able to keep Lincoln off the boards, they didn't shoot very well the entire game. They shot 27% for the entire game, and only made 2 out of 16 three point shots, something they rely on because of the amount of guards that were in the rotation. One of the main players for Jefferson, senior guard Jaquan Lynch, had a horrible afternoon shooting the rock. He never looked comfortable the entire game and only scored 2 points in the game. Lynch briefly left the game to get checked out by the trainer with what looked like a lower body injury. It wasn't immediately clear what was bothering the 6-0 senior guard. Jefferson head coach Bud Pollard didn't know what was wrong with Lynch, but did say after the game that his division one guard seemed to lack energy. Pollard believed that if Lynch had played like he normally does and played to his average, Jefferson could have won the game.
Jefferson did get solid play from Rachard Moody, who scored 17 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, and also had 6 steals. He didn't have any assists, but that was because nobody on Jefferson could make a shot. Moody was steady throughout the game and was ready for the big lights on Broadway.
Lincoln showed they were able to make the plays that were needed to be made to get the championship. They didn't panic when Jefferson turned a 39-32 halftime lead to a 42-39 deficit by scoring the first 10 points of the half. Shaq McFarlane scored his only field goal of the game to finally break the ice for Lincoln in the second half. Then Davis made two jumpers to close out the third quarter and put Lincoln on top for good.
Morton believed that the victory was a huge one for the program. He said it was a big accomplishment for the seniors on the roster to finally taste a championship which almost seemed like a birthright for Lincoln players the past decade. It also was a big win for Whitehead, who finally can get the pressure of delivering a chip to the Coney Island school off his shoulders. Whitehead came into the school as a much hyped freshman. Finally, he has the hardware to validate the hype in his junior season.
Morton was asked does he think the kids on his team understand how they are contributing to the Lincoln legacy. Morton said "If a kid is from the city and doesn't know about the school and the players that have come out of there, then they weren't a real ball player." He added that kids have to be a student of the game to come to the Coney Island School.
"If a guy wants to come to Lincoln, they got to understand what's ahead. The spotlight's on us. I always tell the kids use the basketball, don't let the basketball use you. I assume most of the guys that come here know what they want to come here for," Morton said at the post-game press conference.
Lincoln will get to travel to Albany for the State Federation title and try to add another trophy to the Lincoln legacy. They meet Long Island Lutheran in the Class AA semi-finals in Albany, NY on Friday for a chance to play for the title on Saturday night.
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