Championship teams like the third-ranked Lincoln Abes seems to have an indefinable quality.
They have an innate ability to rescue wins from defeat.
And that is what the Abes did Friday night in clinching their sixth consecutive league title.
Frankly, Spanaway Lake outplayed Lincoln much of the 3A Pierce County boys basketball game in Tacoma.
In the end, it didn’t matter — the Abes eked out a 71-69 victory in their own gymnasium.
Emmett Linton III poured in a game-high 26 points, 18 coming in the second half. Le’Zjon Bonds added 20, and the Abes (18-0, 12-0 in 3A PCL) overcame a 12-point deficit in the second half, mostly built by the 23 points apiece from Divante Moffitt and Isaiah Turner.
And even though the Abes’ defense sparked the turnaround — it held the Sentinels without a field goal for 5:56 in the third quarter — the Abes then went 8:04 without making a shot of their own well into the fourth quarter.
“They outworked us for most of that game,” Lincoln coach Aubrey Shelton said. “I give them a lot of credit, they had a good game plan, and their guys played well together.”
Moffitt’s bucket gave the Sentinels a 57-48 lead with 5:53 remaining, and things looked bleak for Lincoln, which could not get anything going offensively and settled for jump shots.
But Linton and Bonds kept at it with their pressure as Lincoln forced six fourth-quarter turnovers.
That sparked a 12-0 run over a 3:18 span. Linton’s running 8-foot bank shot capped the run, giving the Abes their first lead since the first quarter — 59-57.
“We had to come together on defense with our communication,” Linton said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game.”
The Sentinels (14-4, 9-3) took their final lead, 65-64, on Derek Gordon Jr’s layup with 33 seconds remaining.
Then came the game’s biggest sequence. The Abes got two shots up, but missed. Both teams crashed the glass with several players. But it was Bonds who grabbed an offensive rebound and made a shot in mid-air while being fouled.
“He timed it better than we did, faded back and got the (three-point) play,” Spanaway Lake coach Dominic Batten said. “That was a tough shot he made.”
Lincoln finally had the lead for good, 67-65. The Sentinels turned it over on their end, and the Abes made five three throw attempts in the final 11 seconds to wrap up the come-from-behind victory — and another league crown.
The win Friday pushed Lincoln’s league winning streak during the regular season to 45 games.
“They all believe in each other, and trust each other knowing they all will keep fighting until the end,” Shelton said. “And we have seniors. They have been here for four years. They are just so used to winning.”