Guard Ahmaad Rorie was only away from Lincoln High School boys basketball for eight months after announcing he would transfer to Montverde Academy in Florida last summer.
In a lot of ways for a young Abes squad that matured immensely over this season without him, that has felt like 80 years.
You can’t blame Rorie, who came back to Lincoln after the winter holiday, for tiptoeing back into the program, trying to rediscover his place — and reestablish his standing.
But on Friday, the Abes needed him to be the Rorie of old — the proactive, determined California-bound point guard — from last season.
Down and out in the first half, fourth-ranked Lincoln roared back in the second half to trip up No. 3 Wilson, 67-59, at the Rams’ packed home gymnasium.
Wilson (16-2, 9-1) still holds a half-game lead over the Abes (16-2, 8-1), but if both teams win out, they would play on a neutral court for the 3A Narrows League’s top seed to the West Central District playoffs.
After the Abes trailed by 13 points in the first half, they took the lead late in the third quarter — and then rode senior Justice Martion in the final eight minutes. He tallied 12 of his team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter.
Rorie scored 13 points, and Cameron Collins finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
“Guys really anted up in the second half and brought tremendous effort,” Lincoln coach Aubrey Shelton said. “It was a must-win for us if we are going to win the (league) title.”
In some ways, the Abes should have felt lucky being down, 32-24, at halftime after making 11 of 31 field-goal attempts.
They also benefited from two untimely technical fouls on Wilson in the first
2½ minutes of the second half — one on coach Dave Alwert for arguing a foul and the other on Jamal Welch for hanging on the rim after going for a loose ball.
After that, any Rams mojo came to a screeching half.
“It was that five minutes that cost us the game,” Alwert said.
It was also about the time Rorie heated up — not just scoring, but rebounding and dishing assists to teammates.
His pass to Josiah Barsh for an easy basket tied the score at 39-all at the 2:45 mark of the third quarter. After Shon Peterson stole the inbound pass, he fed Rorie for another quick bucket five seconds later, and the Abes didn’t trail again.
“I am real mentally strong, and told myself to take over in the second half — not just scoring, but getting that team involved,” said Rorie, who was playing his fourth game back with the Abes. “When I was doing that, we played up to par.”
Rorie’s 3-pointer from the right corner to start the fourth quarter trigged a 13-3 Lincoln run over the next 3:51. And a motivated Martion, a 6-foot-6 center playing with a heavy heart, was a monster presence inside with key turnaround baskets in the lane.
On Thursday night, Martion found out his grandmother suffered a stroke and was in a coma in the hospital.
“It just pushed me to go harder,” Martion said. “My grandmother has always believed in me ... and always been there for me. I felt even though she is sick, I played this game for her.”
The Rams were also done in by spotty free-throw shooting, making 17 of 34 attempts.
Alphonso Anderson and Welch led Wilson with 15 points apiece.