Don’t let the grade levels fool you: The Lincoln Abes play with the mental toughness and composure of a team much wiser than its collective age.
And that heady, hard-nosed play was on display Monday night at the King Holiday Hoopfest at Bellevue College as Lincoln rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit to claim a 62-55 victory over previously undefeated Jackson, the top-ranked team in Class 4A.
“Our team is full of kids with heart, toughness and character,” Lincoln coach Aubrey Shelton said.
Trailing 42-37 with seven minutes left in the game, the Abes, ranked No. 4 in 3A, put together a run to tie the game at 52 with 2:44 left. With time winding down and the game in the balance, where did Lincoln turn? To none other than freshman Londrell Hamilton.
The 5-foot-11 point guard cut to the rim with no fear, scoring a tough basket inside to put the Abes up by two. After Brian Zehr’s 3-pointer put the senior-laden Timberwolves ahead, 55-54, Hamilton came back the other way, rebounded his own miss down low and scored to put the Abes back in the lead. A pair of free throws by Hamilton pushed the lead to 58-55 with a minute left, and Jackson (11-1) got no closer.
“He’s a gamer,” Shelton said of Hamilton. “It’s very uncanny for a freshman. He’s a guy that as a freshman we feel total confidence in him with the ball in his hands at the end of the game because he usually makes the right decisions.”
Hamilton finished with a team-high 12 points — 11 coming in the second half, six in the final two minutes.
“When it comes down to it, in the fourth quarter, I know I want to get the ball inside,” Hamilton said. “They couldn’t stop it.”
Lincoln (10-1) also got strong contributions from other underclassmen up and down the roster. Sophomore Dionte Simon scored eight, and Trevion Brown added 10.
Senior Justice Martion scored nine, and junior Cameron Collins finished with nine points, five rebounds and two steals.
“We were thinking we needed to get the ball inside more, and they couldn’t stop us off the pick and roll, so we just kept going back to what was working,” Hamilton said.
But Monday night’s performance was more about defense, as the Abes kept one of the state’s top scoring teams in check.
“No team has scored more than 55 on us,” Shelton said. “We looked at the stats, they’re averaging 70 (points per game), and we’re averaging 45 (allowed). So something has got to give. It looked like it was more in our favor.”
Jackson, which didn’t lose all last season until the 4A state championship game, got 22 points and 13 rebounds from 6-foot-5 guard Jason Todd. Senior guard Dan Kingma added 15, but fouled out with two minutes left in the game.
“We just stuck together,” added Hamilton. “When we play together, nobody can beat us.”