Aubrey Shelton had to refocus. He said there were occasions in Thursday’s 3A state quarterfinal against Seattle Prep when he almost forgot he was supposed to be coaching, instead of thinking about how much he loves this Lincoln High School boys basketball team.
“Man, I love these guys,” Shelton said. “I had to catch myself, even in the game today.
“They are fighters and they play together and it’s just typical Lincoln kids — people count them out and they prove them wrong.”
The Abes did what Spanaway Lake and Timberline failed to do before them. No. 3 Lincoln cruised to a 70-58 victory against eighth-ranked Seattle Prep to improve to 26-0 and earn a date in the state semifinals against Nathan Hale.
Shelton loves how his Abes fly on defense, play tougher than they look and seem to hit the big shots in the big moments — from anyone, anywhere.
Almost all five starters scored in double figures. Trevante Anderson, the 3A Pierce County League MVP, scored a team-high 17 points. Emmett Linton III had 13, Willie Thomas 12, Le’Zjon Bonds 11 and Davis Harris scored nine.
And down went a school from the mighty Metro League.
“Easily our best win of the year,” Shelton said. “We went to the state semis in 2013, but nobody expected this team to be here.
“This is probably the most satisfying win in my career.”
Just imagine how satisfying the next one could be?
The Abes play No. 1 Nathan Hale at 7:15 p.m. Friday in the Tacoma Dome for the right to play for the state title.
Shelton noticed a peculiar oddity during their Tacoma Dome walkthrough earlier this week. There were T-shirts printed — proclaiming Nathan Hale as the state champions. Except the state championship isn’t until Saturday, and as much as Nathan Hale has been preordained by some to win it all, it has not yet qualified for the title game.
Shelton doesn’t know if the Abes would beat Nathan Hale. But he knows it will be a lot of fun.
“This is what we wanted — we wanted to be able to play them,” Shelton said. “They are clearly more talented — they are the No. 1-ranked team in the nation for a reason. So it’s going to take a lot of effort from us and maybe a little bit of luck. But we are excited.”
Lincoln built an 18-8 lead by the start of the second quarter. Anderson scored 12 of his 16 points in the first half.
“I had open shots,” said Anderson, a junior point guard. “I knocked them down.”
But Seattle Prep — with its twin towers of 6-foot-10 Nic Lynch and 6-foot-9 Collin Welp — ended the first half on a 10-0 run to tie the game.
So then it was Linton’s turn to go off.
He was scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting in the first half — all 3-pointers. He made 5 of 9 shots in the second half to finish with 13 points.
“I just had to stay composed,” Linton said. “I knew my team needed me, so I had to stay aggressive.”
Shelton was handed the game’s box score. He knew how Lincoln would perform rebounding — its tallest player being 6-foot-6 — against that massive Seattle Prep front court would be the difference.
“They had 11 offensive rebounds … and we had 11 offensive rebounds!” Shelton said. “To be even on the boards …”
He kept reading, looking at the total rebounds.
“We actually outrebounded them!” Shelton said, seeing Lincoln had a 25-24 advantage. “We beat the 6-9 and 6-10 kids on the boards! That’s amazing.”
And maybe they can beat the No. 1 team in the country with the No. 1 player in the country (Michael Porter Jr.) on Friday.
“I mean, it’s our hometown,” Linton said. “It’s Tacoma. You can’t let anybody come in our home court and beat us.”
“We aren’t playing against the other team, we are playing against ourselves,” Anderson said. “Make sure we are on each other and playing together.”
NO. 8 SEATTLE PREP
NO. 3 LINCOLN
SP: Stricklin 4, Woodward 13, Nettles 10, Gale 2, Flor 2, Welp 20, Lynch 6
L: Anderson 17, Linton 13, Bonds 11, Thomas 12, Deloney 2, Braggs 4, Dillingham 2, Harris 9