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Talented Stags too much for Hornets in National Division opener

CARMEL VALLEY – For two and a half quarters, Lincoln matched nationally ranked DeMatha (Md.) in the first round of the Holiday Classic National Division at Torrey Pines High. The sixth-ranked Stags ultimately had too much talent and pulled away late to beat the Hornets 59-48.

“We were ready, but they were the better team,” said Lincoln junior guard Tyree Robinson. “We gave it all we had and we just lost.”

From the outset, Lincoln (3-3) didn’t shy away from DeMatha despite a significant gap in size and talent. The Stags boasted three highly touted seniors – 6-foot-2 point guard James Robinson (committed to Pittsburgh), 6-foot-8 swingman Jerami Grant (Syracuse), and 5-foot-11 Marcellous Bell (Binghamton) – to go along with 6-foot-8, 270-pound junior forward Beejay Anya.

“Our kids were really up for the game and nobody was afraid of the challenge,” said Lincoln head coach Jason Bryant.

Lincoln had a lead over DeMatha (6-0) in each of the first two quarters and trailed the Stags 35-32 after a fast, physical first half. Tyree Robinson hit six three-pointers in the first half to help the Hornets keep pace with the Stags despite being outrebounded.

“My mentality was to keep shooting if they were going to be that far off of me – I had to let it go,” Tyree Robinson said. “I’m a shooter and that’s what shooters do.”

After a defensive start to the third quarter, DeMatha switched to a four-guard lineup which exploited Lincoln’s lack of backcourt depth. That change coupled with junior guard Tyrell Robinson picking up his fourth foul with 2:30 remaining in the quarter was what the Stags needed to take control of the game.

“They went small – they had four guards and the big kid (Anya) – and we’re just not very deep this year in terms of our guard play and talent,” Bryant said.

Lincoln trailed by four late in the third quarter when Grant blocked a layup attempt by Hornets junior forward Fred Melifonwu and Bell hit a three on the other end to make it 43-36 with 1:47 left in the quarter. DeMatha had an eight-point advantage over the Hornets to start the fourth.

“You have to keep attacking a team that has shot blockers – you can’t just settle for jump shots,” Bryant said. “We felt that at some point the fouls would start going our way if we kept attacking.”

In the fourth quarter, Lincoln couldn’t get closer than five points as DeMatha slowly pulled away. Three-pointers by Bell and junior guard Jairus Lyles sealed the Hornets’ fate in the 11-point loss.

“We had this game in our hands, we just had way too many turnovers,” Tyree Robinson said. “We stuck with them as well as we could and we tried to put on a show.”

Three DeMatha players finished in double figures, led by Anya’s 21 points and 14 rebounds. The junior big man was a matchup problem for Lincoln throughout the game.

“Size is always an issue when you are playing a national schedule, and we lack size when it comes to national teams,” Bryant said.

Tyree Robinson led Lincoln with 22 points and Tyrell Robinson added 10 for the Hornets. Despite the loss, Bryant was encouraged by Lincoln’s performance against the most difficult early season opponent of its arduous preseason slate.

“This was a great experience – we learned today, our leaders were encouraging, and I think going forward we should be successful,” Bryant said.

National Division favorite DeMatha advances to play Lakewood Mayfair (7-3) in the second round tomorrow. Lincoln drops to the consolation bracket, where the Hornets meet Sacramento Sheldon (8-3) tomorrow at 2:15 p.m.

“We’ve been in every game that we played, so it’s a great learning experience for the young guys,” Bryant said. “I’ll take 3-3 at this point in the season, and hopefully we can win the next few games in this tournament and go into league with a winning record.”

DeMatha – 59 (16-19-9-15)

Anya 21, Grant 12, Robinson 0, Shuler 0, Howard 0 (starters) Bell 17, Lyles 7, Taylor 2

Lincoln – 48 (16-16-4-12)

Tyree Robinson 22, Tyrell Robinson 10, Melifonwu 8, Turner 4, Spates 2 (starters) Martin 2

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Pictured: DeMatha guard James Robinson goes up for a shot against Lincoln guard Steve Martin

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