By Jeremy Balan
In the game that was supposed to be played on the day of Mike Gragnani’s funeral, the Mustangs honored their late head coach with yet another win, this time against what may be the best team in the Academic Athletic Association.
The visiting Mustangs stunned Washington with a 60-54 win on Friday, to remain undefeated in AAA play and since Gragnani’s death.
“Mike just preached intensity to these guys and for them to still have it and show it on the court and play the type of basketball he wanted, means a lot,” said Lincoln interim head coach Matt Jackson. “It really shows the impact he had on them. Our hats off to a great teacher, and there’s a big hole in our hearts, but we’re going to keep fighting for him, one game at a time.”
Lincoln was led in scoring by junior guard Chris Young, who had a game-high 19 points on a combination of sleek three-point shooting and hard drives to the basket, but it was a dynamic performance from senior Kevork Demirjian that may have been the difference.
The 6-foot-5 center had a season-high 18 points and attacked the Washington defense inside early, but when the Eagles went to a zone to combat his size, Demirjian’s midrange game flourished and he scored eight points in a crucial third quarter. The Mustangs extended a 31-30 halftime lead to 51-38 after the third.
“I really love it when the midrange game is open, because that’s a big part of my game,” Demirjian said. “If it’s open, I’m going to hit it. We just made some adjustments.”
The Mustangs offense was efficient in the third quarter, but stumbled in the fourth, as frequent turnovers allowed the Eagles to stay within striking distance. But even though the opportunities were there, the Eagles could not put together a significant rally, to the dismay of a Washington crowd that appeared to be ready to explode.
Senior guard Jeremy Jetton led Washington with a game-high 25 points, but it was a frustrating night of uncharacteristically bad shooting from fellow senior Brenden Glapion that hampered the Eagles throughout.
“Everyone else picked up the slack,” said Washington head coach Jolinko Lassiter. “We’re more than just one guy and Jeremy played a great game tonight, just unbelievable.”
Glapion still had 16 points, but the Mustangs held him to just 6-of-23 shooting from the floor.
“We made it hard for Glapion,” Jackson said. “I’m sure he got his points, but nothing for him came easy. We wanted to focus on him and make sure one guy didn’t beat us. We just played great team defense.”
The win puts Lincoln into a first-place tie in the AAA’s loaded Lang Division with defending champion Mission, but when talking to the Mustangs, the focus is still on honoring Gragnani.
“It’s what coach Mike would have wanted us to do and we’re going to do everything in our power to keep his legacy alive,” Demirjian said. “It’s been tough, but we’re trying to play hard for him and stay positive in everything we do.”
Chris Young – 19
Kevork Demirjian – 18
Artrix Thomas – 14
Ares Brown – 7
Nick Young –
Jeremy Jetton – 25
Brenden Glapion – 16
Johnny Fu – 7
Galen Hall – 4
LeVander Moore – 2