Statement wins come in all shapes and sizes. On Wednesday night, a young Lincoln High School Abes team got theirs in a flurry of free throws and layups.
Joclyen Wyatt scored 24 points to carry Lincoln past crosstown rival Wilson, 67-33, in a dominant road performance in Tacoma that puts the Abes firmly in second place in the Class 3A Pierce County League.
“Man, they competed,” Lincoln coach Jamila Jones said. “I think we played with good place, and really got after it on defense, really just being aggressive and attacking the hoop. We’ve settled for a lot of 3’s over our last few games, so it was good to see us not jack up a bunch of 3’s and get to the basket.”
The Abes (9-3) set the tone early, getting to the basket and earning trips to the free throw line. Wyatt was unstoppable, putting Lincoln in the driver’s seat with a series of drives and cuts that generated buckets and fouls seemingly at will. Forward Sharayah Johnson couldn’t be covered either, corralling a slew of offensive rebounds and scoring the majority of her 18 points on putbacks and layups off of dump-off passes.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“This year, with the young group, we didn’t want to put a lot on their shoulders. So, we just wanted them to be super aggressive,” Jones said. “Just attack the basket, find the post inside.”
Lincoln went into the locker room with a 32-14 lead, thanks in part to their success at the free throw line. The Abes were 12 of 24 from the stripe for the game, almost all of which came in the first half after getting to the double bonus with seven minutes, 18 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Wyatt struck again as the third quarter began, pouring in seven quick points and helping the Abes ensure zero surprises in the final period. Jones said having her on the court this year has had a steadying effect on a team that lacks experience.
“It’s a blessing. Shoot, we start three sophomores. With that comes a lot of responsibility, we put a lot on (Wyatt’s) shoulders,” Jones said.
“She was a great leader tonight. I just look forward to what she’s going to be like in February and March, I think a lot of people didn’t think we were going to be playing that late into the year — I think today our girls said, ‘Yes we are.’ ”
It was a disappointing result for Wilson (10-2), and coach Michelle Birge, who was hoping for a better showing from her Rams.
“We had a game plan, knew what we needed to do but couldn’t get our bodies and our minds to connect,” Birge said. “Lincoln sometimes has a mental intimidation edge, and we have a lot of young players that have not played in those types of games. I’m proud of our effort, even if it didn’t look like that in the score.”
The Rams, who are missing sharpshooter Brooklyn Grant to injury, couldn’t get shots to fall despite taking more attempts from the field than the Abes. Hope Lalau was the only Wilson player able to generate any offense, scoring 16 points.
As Lincoln moves forward, Jones isn’t afraid to set the standard when talking about what’s beginning to look like a promising season.
“It’s always to the (Tacoma) Dome for us, that’s our expectations,” he said. “But, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, and again, with a young team you’re going to have ups and downs. We started off the season really rough.”
Jones had a cryptic message for his roster, an insiders-only reference to a mysterious turning point this season that brought the team together and took their play to another level.
“God bless the Grinch,” he said with a smile. “As long as they can keep that Grinch in them, I think we’re going to be all right. Quote that.”
L – Joclyen Wyatt 24, Sharayah Johnson 18, Kristol Ayson 8, Zaniya Banks 5, Sa’Naya McAfee 8, Elizabeth Frazier 2, Daylina Wilson 2.
W – Hope Lalau 16, Bryanna Birge 1, Veronika Pon 10, Aaliyah Walker 4, Drionna Guffey-Stratton 2.