By Bonta Hill
Despite never holding a lead, Lincoln High School came close to pulling off one of the biggest upsets in the Bay Area in the young season.
The Mustangs hung tough all night with perennial powerhouse De La Salle High School, but couldn’t get the big shot when they needed to get over the hump, as they fell to the Spartans 41-38 at Kezar Pavilion on Tuesday.
De La Salle (5-0), got 16 points and eight rebounds from forward Travis Pacos, but it was their tough man-to-man defense that was the difference and kept Lincoln from getting into their transition game.
“We are definitely a full-court team and against them it’s hard to get them playing at that speed, because they are so disciplined,” said Lincoln head coach Mike Gragnani. “We tried a couple of things today and it seemed to be working, but they’re a tough team to score on.”
In the first half, both teams were pretty efficient shooting despite combining to score only 38 points. With both teams using most of the shot-clock on each possession, the Spartans would shoot 9-of-18 in the first half and the Mustangs made seven shots on only 12 attempts from the floor.
The third quarter was a different story, as both offenses were anemic, more so for the Mustangs. Lincoln didn’t make a field goal from the floor, going 0-for-8, but managed to only trail 31-22 heading into the final frame.
“We were aware of the fact that we held them without a field goal in that third quarter, so were zeroing in on that” said De La Salle head coach Frank Allocco. “I tell you though, we got up 13 [points] and thought the game was over, and Lincoln is scrappy and came back. You got to give those guys credit.”
Lincoln certainly didn’t quit and after falling behind, as Artrix Thomas would make the Mustangs first field goal of the half with 6:14 remaining in the game.
The basket sparked the Mustangs, as they went on an 11-2 run that cut the Spartan margin to 35-30 with 1:31 left.
Lincoln guard Chris Young, who scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter, had two three-pointers during the spurt and had an opportunity to cut the De La Salle lead to three with a minute left, but his layup rimmed out.
De La Salle hit enough free throws in the final moments to stay undefeated and escape the City with the hard earned win.
Allocco expected Lincoln to give the Spartans a tough time with his team playing its first game since Dec. 10.
“I thought the game would come down to that, I really did,” Allocco said. “We’ve had finals, didn’t practice last week, but I’m not making excuses, believe me. Lincoln always plays us tough, particularly here [in San Francisco].”
Gragnani credited De La Salle with taking away their perimeter game and not giving them any open looks, but was pleased with his team’s effort and defense.
“We didn’t get a lot of good looks and usually we’re a pretty good outside shooting team,” Gragnani said. “Against [De La Salle], you have to defend, and the reason we were in this game, is because we played defense. This is something we can build on.”
De La Salle
Travis Pacos – 16
Amadi Udenyi – 6
Steve Orono – 5
Benny Battle – 5
Kelvin Morgan – 4
Artrix Thomas – 12
Chris Young – 10
Kevork Demirijian – 6
Anthony Henderson – 4
Mitchell Lee – 4