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Pirates oust Hornets to advance to Division II finals

In the Division II semifinals, Oceanside withstood tenacious Lincoln pressure and still had enough to mount a comeback in the last two minutes. Down four, the Pirates closed the game with a 9-1 run en route to a 64-60 victory.

“A lot of congratulations go to our guys. They really believed in each other and fought back when we got down,” said Oceanside head coach Corey Houge. “I’m very very blessed with this group of kids. They do a great job.”

Oceanside guard J.J. Whitaker gave the Pirates the lead with 0:59 left in the game with a fast break layup. Oceanside then made two defensive stops and Whitaker nailed two free throws with a second left to ice the game.

“The Pirates are hungry,” Whitaker said of the last minute. “We want to win. Plain and simple.”

The game was played at a frenetic pace throughout and Oceanside had trouble with Lincoln’s full court press early on. The Pirates trailed 18-13 late in the first quarter before guard Johnny Lewis hit a three at the buzzer to make it a two-point game. After an even second quarter, Lincoln led 34-33 at halftime.

“I was just trying to keep it calm,” Whitaker said about Lincoln’s pressure. “The crowd, everybody was loud. It gets a little exciting with everybody yelling.”

At the end of the third quarter Oceanside beat the buzzer again – with a Markese Cronk fast break layup – to go ahead by three. The Pirates led by five early in the fourth before Lincoln went on an 8-1 run to go up 55-53 with 5:27 left. The Hornets were ahead four with 2:00 left when Oceanside began their comeback.

“We just couldn’t score,” said Lincoln head coach Jason Bryant. “Our execution wasn’t the greatest. It was a hardfought game – it could have went either way.”

In the end it went the Pirates’ way. With the win second-seeded Oceanside will have a shot to win their first section title since 1998 when they face top-seed Hoover Friday night at the Jenny Craig Pavilion.

“It means the world to us,” Whitaker said. “We worked so hard since the summer to get this done. It’s hard work – that’s all it is.”

Whitaker led Oceanside (26-3) with a game-high 21 points. The Pirates’ point guard scored most of his points in one-on-one isolation.

“I’m trying to do what it takes to get my team to the championship. We want to win,” Whitaker said. “They need me so I try to make a play for them.”

Forward Osmond Nicholas (17 points) and Johnny Lewis (13) also scored in double figures for the Pirates. Forward Rasean Simpson led Lincoln (18-12) with 18 points.

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Lincoln forward Victor Dean pulls down a rebound out of a crowd

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