Coach Aubrey Shelton told anyone who would listen before the season how much he liked his Lincoln High School boys’ basketball squad.
And when he did, most rolled their eyes. How much damage could the Abes possibly do after their two best players — forward Tre’Shaun Fletcher (University of Colorado) and point guard Ahmaad Rorie (prep school in Florida) — left the program?
Just ask any of Lincoln’s December opponents, including Bellarmine Prep on Saturday night.
Seventh-ranked Lincoln waltzed out of the Lions’ home gymnasium with a 62-48 victory that wrapped up the tournament title at the Bellarmine Prep Christmas Classic in Tacoma.
Led by Trevion Brown’s 16 points, and Justice Martion’s 15 — all off the bench — the Abes are 7-0.
Who thought Lincoln would be undefeated heading into the New Year?
“There is a lot to like,” Shelton said. “They are just really playing hard, playing together and they have great attitudes. They like each other. It isn’t something we’ve always had.”
Defense is the Abes’ calling card. They guard people, and when they extend their pressure, opponents must feel like they are trying to weave through 10 defenders at once.
Yes, this is a Lincoln team without a true go-to scorer. But seemingly every night, guys get hot in spurts.
Martion kicked it off, tallying five of his 13 first-half points in the final 1:15. His 8-foot turnaround jumper with one second to go gave the Abes a 25-20 halftime lead.
In the second half, Cameron Collins picked up where Martion left off — particularly in the fourth quarter, when he scored on three of Lincoln’s first five possessions. He finished with 13 points.
And as the Abes delivered the gut punch, Brown was the finisher. He sank a right-side 3-pointer to give Lincoln a 51-35 lead with 4:55 to go, then drilled another one 90 seconds later to cap a 17-6 run.
“We’ve been working together in the summer and the fall,” Martion said. “We know when certain guys are feeling it. It is our intellect. If it is there, it’s there. If it is not, it’s not. We can sense that with each other.”
The Lions have to be scratching their heads how they lost a game by this margin. They shot reasonably well (18-for-37), and got great play by point guard Malachi Flynn (15 points on 6-of-9 shooting).
But Bellarmine Prep turned the ball over 15 times, much to the chagrin of its longtime coach.
“They did a good job of not letting us do what we wanted to do. And they are capable of that,” Lions coach Bernie Salazar said. “They play well together. They’ve got some nice pieces.”
If nobody was listening to Shelton early, more ears have perked up now as Narrows League play starts back up next week.Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 email@example.com @ManyHatsMilles