Matthew Lickona 5 p.m., Dec. 4
Lincoln gashes Gahr in state regional semifinals
LINCOLN PARK – It its final home game of the season on Saturday night, Lincoln wanted to put on a show in the Division II Regional Semifinals – and they did just that. The top-seeded Hornets started fast and cruised to a decisive 83-52 victory over fourth-seeded Cerritos Gahr to move closer to a second consecutive state title.
“We had the home advantage,” said Lincoln guard Tyree Robinson. “Our crowd was really loud tonight and we came out with the win.”
Lincoln (31-1) stormed out of the gates in the first quarter, taking a 10-1 lead two minutes into the game. The Hornets led Gahr 23-10 after a fast first quarter that included four Lincoln dunks – including three from senior guard Norman Powell.
“Before tip off they copied our pregame routine coming in, and we felt disrespected,” Powell said. “We didn’t want to be disrespected on our home court, since this was our last game at Lincoln High School.”
Lincoln lost its offensive rhythm to start the second quarter, only scoring two points in the opening three minutes. Gahr (26-8) closed the gap to eight points midway through the quarter, but the Hornets responded with an 11-2 run and took a 39-23 lead into halftime.
“The issue for us in the first half was us finishing layups,” said Lincoln head coach Jason Bryant. “We turned them over but we had a problem finishing.”
After halftime, Lincoln turned up its defensive intensity to pull away from Gahr. The Hornets opened the third quarter on a 16-5 run and led by 22 headed into the fourth quarter on their way to a 31-point win.
“They got tired midway through the third quarter,” Bryant said. “It was just too much up-and-down for them and it worked out well for us.”
Lincoln has won 21 games in a row and is two wins away from back-to-back state titles. The Hornets’ six postseason wins have come by an average of 36 points.
“We’re playing our best basketball right now and we aren’t going to slow down,” Powell said. “Whoever we play, we’re going to bring it to them.”
Powell was one of three Lincoln starters in double figures, leading the team with 19 points. Bryant said guard Josh Smith provided a first half spark off the bench.
“He played incredible for us with the dunks that he had, he was eating rebounds all night, he blocked shots and he definitely changed the game when he came in,” Bryant said.
For Gahr, guard Davon Potts led the way with a game-high 21 points. The Gladiators came into the game shorthanded due to injury.
“Two of their three best players were hurt, so that kind of made it a little easy on us tonight,” Bryant said. It really was all about stopping Davon Potts and making them go up and down in transition.”
As Lincoln rolled to another state playoff victory on Saturday night, the only team ranked ahead of the Hornets in the state fell. Long Beach Poly lost 72-55 to Santa Ana Mater Dei in the Division I state playoffs, giving Lincoln the opportunity to finish the season as California’s best team if they bring home a state championship.
“Yes, absolutely we’re No. 1 – no question,” Bryant said.
Lincoln will meet 10th-seeded Fontana Summit (27-8) in the Southern California Regional Finals next Saturday at 4 p.m. at USC’s Galen Center. The Hornets beat Summit 72-67 in the second round of last year’s state playoffs.
“They’re athletic and well-coached,” Bryant said. “Their style is similar to ours – we both like to get up and down the floor. I think it’s going to be a good game – it’s going to be our second-toughest game of the year next to Long Beach Poly.”
As a second straight state championship comes into focus, Lincoln doesn’t appear to be letting up. The Hornets are out to prove that last year’s title wasn’t a fluke.
“Last year, the word was that we came out of nowhere and stumbled onto a state championship,” Bryant said. “This year we had an axe to grind to prove that we are a good team, we are the best team in San Diego and one of the top two or three teams in the state.
“I think we’re going to show our best basketball in these last games.”
Lincoln – 83 (23-16-20-24)
Powell 19, Tyree Robinson 17, Simpson 11, Tyrell Robinson 8, K. Smith 4 (starters) Morgan 5, J. Smith 6, Cobb 4, Kirkland 3, Byrd 2, Nnamani 2, Lovell 1
Gahr – 52 (10-13-14-15)
Potts 21, Alvarez 11, Benson 8, MacDonald 1, Nebo 1 (starters) Payne 4, Benton 4, Thompson 2
Lincoln guard Josh Smith puts down a two-handed dunk against Gahr