By Ernest Stone
After Lincoln High School ended the third quarter on a 7-0 run to cut their deficit to just two points, it seemed that Wallenberg was on the ropes.
Yet, as was the case many times on Friday, a Lincoln rally was followed by an authoritative response from the Bulldogs, enabling Wallenberg to hold on to a 67-56 road win in the Academic Athletic Association quarterfinals.
“You would have expected us to come into this game with more intensity,” said Lincoln head coach Jason Lee. “But we were unable to match their heart, and I guess maybe with the young team we have and all the pressure on our program to maintain its winning tradition, I should have expected that a little more.”
While Wallenberg’s (14-10) tenacity was a large factor in its dominance rebounding the ball and creating turnovers, guards Nerissa Soliven and Andrea Mochida were what ultimately separated the two teams. The two not only combined for 38 points, but set the pace of the game with their quickness and ability to create shots in the lane or draw fouls trying.
As successful as Soliven and Mochida were, their efforts were matched early by Lincoln freshman point guard Ezra DeAsi, who’s 11 first-half points kept the game close.
But it was Wallenberg that slowed down the tempo in the second half, which after entering the third quarter up 32-28 largely due to fast break points, pushed the lead to 46-37 running predominantly half-court sets. The style change not only afforded Soliven and Mochida a break, but stymied DeAsi, who went scoreless in the period.
Yet as Mochida went to the bench with 1:33 left in the third quarter and the Bulldogs’ biggest lead of the game still intact, Lincoln struck for seven unanswered to reestablish their position in the game.
“We had a big lead against a good team,” said Wallenberg head coach Kristina Lee. “So I think it made us rush a little bit once things got sloppy and weren’t going our way, but at the same time that fourth quarter break allowed me some time to reassure our players that when we stuck to our game we were successful.”
Combined with a refocused Bulldogs team and Lincoln’s inability to string together consistent attack on offense, Lee’s squad was able to dominate the fourth quarter and capture the victory by double-digits.
For Lincoln, the loss means the end of a season in which much of the burden was placed on younger players to fill key roles.
As for Wallenberg, next up is a Lowell, which beat Mission 58-18 in its quarterfinal matchup, and bested the Bulldogs 52-28 in the final game of the regular season.
“To be honest, I’m not concerned about our offense,” said Mochida, who finished with 19 points. “Our defense needs work and we will address it in practice, but I feel pretty good about this team as a whole.”
Andrea Mochida – 19
Nerissa Soliven – 19
Nef Rogers – 9
Naima Rahmaoui – 6
Chelsea Stewart – 4
Ezra DeAsi – 17
Michelle Wong – 16
Jess Garrett – 9
Sophia Nguyen – 6
Cheray Piper – 4