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8:30 a.m., Sept. 22
Playing on the road in their Western League opener, No. 5 Lincoln wanted to establish control early. The Hornets scored the first eight points of the game and never looked back, knocking off La Jolla 67-46 on Tuesday night.
“I felt like we were more athletic than they were, so I wanted to push the emphasis offensively and defensively,” said Lincoln head coach Jason Bryant.
Thanks to Lincoln’s press, La Jolla looked out of rhythm early. It took the Vikings nearly four and a half minutes to score their first basket and they trailed by seven at the end of the quarter despite a buzzer-beating three from forward Taylor Davis.
“We were too hesitant to start the game – deferring too much to each other – and that hurt us,” said La Jolla head coach Kamal Assaf. “We always talk about being the aggressor and we weren’t the aggressor.”
Lincoln opened the second quarter with eight straight points to take a 24-9 lead. La Jolla settled down and the game was more back and forth for the rest of the quarter, with the Hornets up seven at the half.
“We didn’t share the ball – we didn’t make each other better,” Assaf said. “When you’re playing Lincoln you have to make all the players better.”
In the third quarter, Lincoln began to pull away. The Hornets led by as much as 23 in the fourth before winning by 21, with emphatic dunks by Nathan Maxey and Victor Dean punctuating the victory.
“The first quarter was great – the next three quarters weren’t very good,” Bryant said. “We lost motivation somewhere in there. I’m not so sure what that is, but that’s something we have to work on in practice.”
Three players finished in double figures for Lincoln (6-2, 1-0 Western), led by guard Norman Powell’s game-high 18. Davis led La Jolla (8-5, 0-1) with 15 points, 10 of which came in the second half.
“They really don’t have a lot of weaknesses,” Assaf said of Lincoln. “They shot the ball pretty well today, they defended the perimeter well, they’ve got a 6’9” guy roaming around in the post. You really have to play a great game against them.”
Despite playing only eight games this season, Lincoln is considered one of the best teams in the section, with losses only to Crenshaw (Los Angeles) and Centennial (Compton). And Bryant believes the recognition is deserved.
“We’ve done a good job in our preseason,” Bryant said. “Definitely we’re deserving, we just have to keep proving it night after night.”
Assaf compared Lincoln to No. 2 Hoover (11-4). La Jolla lost to the Cardinals by 11 in their season opener on Dec. 2.
“They’re very similar. I think Lincoln has even better depth than Hoover,” Assaf said. “Lincoln has more guys off the bench that can come in. But they are very similar teams – great size, great speed, great athleticism."
Lincoln forward Tyrell Robinson over La Jolla forward Taylor Davis