Lincoln High School is still at the top of the basketball hierarchy in Tacoma.
The Abes proved that Wednesday night, posting their eighth consecutive victory over crosstown rival Wilson in a 61-58 win that keeps them undefeated atop the Class 3A Pierce County League standings.
“Lincoln is one of the best in Tacoma,” Lincoln senior Jayden Simon said. “We’re trying to keep the streak alive for as long as we can.”
Lincoln (10-2) hasn’t lost to another school in Tacoma proper — private or public — since 2015, when it narrowly dropped the 3A West Central/Southwest bidistrict title game to the Rams.
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And, the Abes are halfway to winning their third consecutive undefeated 3A PCL title — Lincoln has won at least a share of its league title for six consecutive seasons, dating back to when the program played in the now-disbanded 3A Narrows League — after sweeping opponents in the first leg of league play.
“We have to keep working every day, keep competing every day, because everybody is going to give us their best game every night,” first-year Lincoln coach Ryan Rogers said. “We’ve already played everybody once. They’re going to come out that much better, and that much harder against us, and we have to be ready to go.”
Wilson (8-5) was the biggest test yet, and the first league opponent this season the Abes didn’t beat by double digits.
Lincoln jumped out to an early lead, and maintained a two-or-three possession lead most of the way. But, though Wilson never led, the Abes could never quite pull away, and the Rams consistently piece together short runs to stay within striking distance.
“We have to make sure once they start getting their runs, we get our runs, too,” Lincoln senior Mykel Campbell said. “Keep the lead, box out, get rebounds and keep our heads in the game.”
Wilson made its final — and most crucial — run of the game late in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter, and almost climbed all the way back in the final minute.
“They all said, ‘It’s now or never.’ They went out and got some turnovers, and dove on some loose balls,” first-year Wilson coach Mike Cocke’ said. “Guys made plays to make it interesting.”
With 55 seconds to play, Daniel Santana spun through the paint and pulled up for a short jumper to trim Lincoln’s lead to five points.
After a pair of free throws from Campbell, the Rams answered with two of their own from Emani Mitchell, Santana forced a quick turnover, and Davion Franklin converted a layup to cut the lead to a single possession with 30 seconds to go.
Jayden Simon sunk two more free throws for the Abes, but Kiwanis Thomas III nailed a 3-pointer with 19 seconds left to cut Lincoln’s lead to 60-58.
After a Kashaud Babbs free throw pushed the lead back to three points, Wilson had the final 13 seconds to respond, but Santana’s attempt at a tying 3-pointer rimmed out at the buzzer.
“Lincoln competes, and they make up for a lot of things with their hear and effort, and that’s Lincoln. ... When you don’t play hard, or you’re in foul trouble, or don’t execute on offense, they’ll beat you,” Cocke’ said.
“I’m not very pleased with how we played tonight, but I was proud of our guys. They didn’t fold. They competed in the fourth quarter to make it interesting.”
Malik Howard scored a game-high 18 points for the Rams, who had a slightly better shooting night from the floor (48.8 percent) than the Abes (45.8), but couldn’t string together enough baskets to grab a lead. Franklin and Thomas each added 11 points for Wilson.
The Rams played much of the contest without forward Dominique Ellison, who was in foul trouble early, and eventually fouled out early in the fourth quarter.
“We knew coming in we would have to do a good job against the Simon brothers, and need him on the floor, and unfortunately that didn’t happen tonight,” Cocke’ said.
Julien Simon, a starter and top shooter for the Abes, also fouled out late in the fourth quarter, but collected 10 points, four rebounds and three assists before exiting.
Jayden Simon led the Abes with 15 points, and pulled down 11 rebounds. Earnest Yearby pitched in 11 points, while Campbell had eight and 11 boards.
W – Shooting: 21 of 43 (48.8 percent). Free throws: 14 of 24 (58.3). Turnovers: 14.
L – Shooting 22 of 48 (45.8 percent). Free throws: 15 of 22 (68.2). Turnovers: 16.
W – Damani Green 8, Emani Mitchell 5, Davion Franklin 11, Daniel Santana 3, Jackson Dorsey 2, Kiwanis Thomas III 11, Malik Howard 18.
L – Reggie Archibald 4, Kashaud Babbs 5, Mykel Campbell 8, Earnest Yearby 11, Parker Androy 1, Chris Whitford 7, Julien Simon 10, Jayden Simon 15.