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With a berth in the Division II state finals on the line on Saturday at the Galen Center, Lincoln couldn’t have started much worse against Compton. But the Hornets stormed out of the gates in the second half and never looked back, beating the Tarbabes 60-52 to advance to the state finals.

“We’re all family and you play your hearts out for your family,” said Lincoln guard Norman Powell. “That’s what we did – we bonded together as a family, put it all out on the floor and came out with a win.”

Accustomed to fast starts during their section and state playoff run, second-seed Lincoln (28-2) didn’t do that against fifth-seed Compton (21-14). The Hornets shot only 17 percent (5-for-29) in a slow first half and trailed 28-22 at the break.

“At the tip of the ball we pressed and pressured them but we kind of got away from that in the second quarter,” said Lincoln head coach Jason Bryant. “They’re was really no sense of urgency to pick up full court and trap.”

Instead of panicking or pointing the finger at each other in the locker room, Lincoln simply settled down. Bryant said he just asked his team to relax.

“There were some issues about how the ball felt – the ball was kind of new so it was slippery and it was kind of flat,” said Lincoln head coach Jason Bryant. “I just had to make them understand that regardless of how the ball is or what the situation is that we still had to play.”

After Compton scored on the opening possession of the third quarter, Lincoln picked up the pace to get back into the game. The Hornets’ defensive pressure sparked a 16-4 run capped by a Nathan Maxey slam that gave them a four-point lead three minutes into the quarter.

“We picked it up on defense and defense works for itself,” Powell said. “We played aggressive defense, our offense took care of itself and that’s how we gained the lead.”

Lincoln stayed hot and scored the last six points of the quarter to take a 49-38 lead into the fourth. In the third quarter the Hornets shot 75 percent and outscored Compton 27-10.

“It was only them playing harder; it wasn’t like we could do anything different,” said Compton head coach Tony Thomas. “All it was was about intensity and execution. They pressure you and pressure you until you crack.”

Leading my as much as 13 in the fourth quarter, Lincoln saw their lead shrink to five when Compton forward Anthony January made a putback with 1:46 left. But after a 46-second sequence in which Lincoln forward Joshua Smith pulled down three straight offensive rebounds, the Hornets were able to hold on for an eight-point win.

“As the game went along we knew we just had to play basketball how we play it,” Powell said.

Forward Victor Dean led Lincoln with a game-high 19 points. Compton had three players finish in double figures, led by 18 points from guard Cliff Sims Jr.

“From day one a state title was our goal,” Bryant said. “We’ve learned from every game and didn’t make the same mistake twice in games going forward.”

Lincoln now has the chance to become the first Division II state champion from the San Diego Section. The Hornets face Mountain View Saint Francis (30-3) in the state finals on Friday at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield.

“It’s great for all my team and for Lincoln High School. It means a lot to all of us,” Powell said. “We’re just happy we won and we can go to state. Hopefully we can pull out a win there, too.”

Lincoln’s last loss came to Compton Centennial in the championship of the Modesto Christian Holiday Hoop Classic on Dec. 30. Since then, the Hornets have reeled off 23 wins in a row on their way to the Division II state title game.

“After that game we just didn’t like the feeling of losing. All of us thought back to the Oceanside game last season,” Dean said. “We made a run and we haven’t looked back since.”

Lincoln – 60 (10-12-27-11)

Dean 19, Powell 15, Tyrell Robinson 7, Tyree Robinson 6, Maxey 4 (starters) J. Smith 7, K. Smith 2

Compton – 52 (11-17-10-14)

Sims Jr. 18, Guei 12, January 11, Hill 3, Black 1 (starters) Lewis 5, Lanier 2


Lincoln guard Kevin Smith puts up a shot in traffic

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