How Lincoln boys basketball's coasted to a T-CAL win over West
Lincoln boys basketball traveled to West High on a mission to bounce back from last week’s Tri-City Athletic League loss to St. Mary’s.
For the Wolfpack, the matchup had a David vs. Goliath feel as they looked to continue their most successful season in the past three years.
In the end, the Trojans came out on top coasting to a 59-27 victory, building momentum for the playoffs a couple of weeks away. Here are key takeaways for both teams following Friday night's game.
Lincoln’s a defensive threat
Shots weren't landing at all in the first quarter for West due to Lincoln’s relentless defense. The Trojans team is filled with lockdown defenders. Senior Drew Melara leads the charge as he already has over 50 steals this season.
From yanking the ball from West players mid-dribble to trapping them in a full-court press, Lincoln’s defense stole the show. They would hold the Wolfpack to only seven first-half points.
“I think we did really well in this game because we've been working on a new press,” said Quentin Thompson, junior forward for Lincoln. “It’s a 2-2-1 coverage into a man press that helps fill the holes for guys who aren’t as conditioned. But I think it worked well in this game.”
Lincoln’s new press led to lots of offense. Out of its 27 first-half points, over half of them came in transition. This type of defensive production will come in handy in the Trojans' upcoming matchups with teams like Edison, Modesto Christian and their rematch with St. Mary’s.
Converting on free throws
With the Trojans breathing down their backs, the Wolfpack found some relief as they drew contact to get to the foul line. By the end of the game, West had five players get to the free-throw line compared to Lincoln’s three.
West struggled to knock down those giveaway points as they missed 10 out of 17 free throws.
“That's been the story all year for us,” said Brandon Parks, West head coach. “We had a game where we went 9 of 37 from the free throw line. So we do get to the line but for some reason, we can’t make free throws in the game situation. I mean, we shoot them every day at practice so I don’t know what else to do.”
If West wants to have a postseason, knocking down free throws will be crucial in its last four games. Junior guard Joseph Walker will be the key in turning things around as he led West in scoring and in making free throws to finish with nine points.
The Wolfpack hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2016-'17 season. Although they currently have a losing record of 11-13, this is the first time in the past few seasons they might have a chance.
West will have a chance to bounce back on Jan. 30 as it takes on Tokay.
Depth saves the day
West wasn’t the only team struggling to knock down shots as Lincoln finished below its average of 64 points per game. The Trojans offense is led by the sophomore-senior duo of Anthony Moore and Taylor Bryant-Frey. While Moore got himself in some foul trouble, Bryant-Frey’s shot was off, so the Trojans had to look elsewhere.
Thompson and junior Isaiah Dixon answered the call. Dixon led Lincoln in scoring, finishing with a season-high 13 points including a one-handed dunk to send the Trojans bench into a frenzy. Thompson finished the game with 11 points, his second-highest scoring performance this season.
“Some people perform better than others in this game,” Anthony Matthews, Lincoln's head coach said. “But that’s the great thing about being a team: If someone doesn’t step up another person will.”
The Trojans’ depth has been their saving grace during games like this when their go-to scorers are struggling. Against West, 10 of its 16-man roster scored. Having scoring options in almost its entire team will come in clutch in close game situations. Lincoln will play on Monday as well this time at home against Lodi.
“We're young, so we're just taking one game at a time and every day we can practice just trying to get better," Matthews said. "I feel like the kids know what they have to do, and they’re confident heading into the last weeks of the regular season.”
More:East Union girls basketball rebounds to beat Kimball, take top VOL spot. How it happened.
Record reporter Shannon Belt covers sports. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ShannonBelt3. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at https://www.recordnet.com/subscribenow.
This article originally appeared on The Record: How Lincoln boys basketball's coasted to a T-CAL win over West