Willie Thomas didn’t blink an eye. He didn’t skip a beat.
He gave a confident grin when he was asked whether his Lincoln High School boys basketball team is ready now for that other undefeated team in the 3A classification — the one from Seattle that’s the top-ranked team in the nation with the top-ranked player in the nation.
“Heck, yeah,” Thomas said. “Of course.”
How about you, Trevante Anderson?
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“We want ’em,” Anderson said. “I feel like if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll play them sometime soon.”
Especially if the No. 3 Abes keep playing like they have in two wins over Tacoma-rival Wilson this season, including Wednesday night’s 66-55 home win to move a step closer toward at least a share of a league title for the fifth consecutive year.
Anderson scored a game-high 28 points more than a month after dropping 33 points against Wilson in an 86-68 win.
Lincoln (16-0, 11-0 3A Pierce County League) can wrap up its second consecutive undefeated league season if it can win its final three games — starting with Spanaway Lake (12-5, 9-2) on Friday.
But don’t mistake the Abes’ confidence for meaning they could be the favorites against UW signee Michael Porter Jr. and Nathan Hale (16-0).
Lincoln has proved it’s the best in Tacoma for the past two years. Now the Abes must work toward proving they can handle the best of Seattle’s Metro League. Lincoln lost to eventual state champion Rainier Beach in the quarterfinals at the Tacoma Dome last year.
“I still think we need to grow defensively,” Lincoln coach Aubrey Shelton said. “Especially in transition. (Wilson) got us a few times and that was also exposed against Foss. That’s something we definitely need to clean up, especially if we’re playing Garfield, Beach or Nathan Hale down the road.”
But let’s get back to this one.
Shelton was met at halfcourt just before tipoff by Lincoln’s all-time leading scorer, Tre’shaun Fletcher, who presented his former coach with a gold autographed ball so Shelton could remember his 200th career victory, which he earned in last week’s win against Foss.
This was a one-possession game for three-and-a-half quarters. Wilson played more zone, had a tough interior defense and slowed the pace to compensate for Lincoln’s depth.
Emmitt Matthews Jr. scored 21 points as the Rams (13-4, 9-2) took a 36-35 lead in the final minute of the third quarter.
“I felt good about the game,” Wilson coach Dave Alwert said. “I didn’t feel good about the third quarter. We took a lot of long shots.”
Lincoln never trailed after that — scoring 28 points in the fourth quarter.
Wilson’s Londrell Hamilton, who scored 12 points, got to the basket to cut Lincoln’s lead to 44-42 with less than four minutes to play, but the Abes followed with a 9-1 run.
David Harris slipped past a defender for a layup after Emmett Linton’s 3-pointer to give Lincoln a 53-43 lead, which got Shelton hopping and smiling in front of the Lincoln bench.
“The game wasn’t really played at our pace, and we weren’t able to force the issue,” Shelton said. “But we were still able to play disciplined, and I can’t remember really turning the ball over, which is huge when you’re playing a slower-paced game where every possession matters.”
Anderson sealed the win by making 9 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter. Shelton said those free throws were made on the same rim where Anderson had never lost in one of Lincoln’s “King of the Court” free-throw challenges in practice.
Bonds added nine points, and Thomas and Emmett Linton scored eight points each.
Now Lincoln needs one more win to clinch another 3A PCL title.
And then the Abes can start thinking about districts and the Metro League.
“If we played them down the road, that hopefully means we advanced,” Shelton said. “So I hope we play them and get a chance at them and hopefully it’s in the Dome and not at the regional.”
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No. 3 LINCOLN
L: Anderson 28, Amen, Linton 8, Bonds 9, Thomas 8, Deloney 6, Braggs 3, D. Dillingham, J. Dillingham, Harris 4, Macklin, Simon
W: Matthews 21, Hamilton 12, Santana 7, N. Stokes 3, Bates 5, Penor, Thomas, Doss, A. Stokes 7, Mitchell