By Jeremy Balan
As poorly as Lincoln High School’s boys basketball team played offensively in their Academic Athletic Association opener against Balboa on Wednesday, the Mustangs made up for those struggles by locking down the Bucs’ best player.
The Mustangs only shot 30 percent from the floor against the visiting Bucs, but the duo of junior guards Mitchell Lee and Randy Hyson blanketed standout Balboa guard Jonathan Burnoski from baseline to baseline in a 47-39 Lincoln win.
Burnoski scored 10 points, but shot 4-of-25 from the floor, while the Bucs (11-4, 0-1) took 12 more shots than Lincoln (6-9, 1-0) and shot just over 25 percent from the floor as a team.
“We did a good job of making everything difficult for Burnoski,” said Lincoln head coach Matt Jackson. “Randy and Mitchell are really good defenders and they were on him. A lot of stuff they do runs through him and when we took that out, it took them off their game.”
Fellow Balboa captain Fletcher Brown also had his own shooting struggles, hitting just one shot on 16 attempts from the floor.
“In a couple of the losses we’ve had, patience was an issue,” said Balboa head coach Val Cubales. “The guys played with a lot of heart, but it was the impatience and the mental aspect of the game, where we rushed things when we didn’t have to.”
Lincoln’s own shooting issues kept the score close throughout and the game featured eight lead changes and four ties, but with the Balboa offense running entirely through Burnoski and Brown, the Mustangs held a 40-33 lead with 59 seconds remaining.
But in an instant, Brown and Burnoski connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to close the deficit to 41-39 with 27 seconds remaining. The made shots ended a 0-for-13 field goal drought for Burnoski and a 0-for-15 run for Brown.
“Some of the opportunities were there, but we just weren’t hitting them,” Cubales said.
The final Balboa push came up short, though, as the Mustangs hit six straight free throws in the final 21 seconds to seal the win.
Lincoln senior guard Chris Young hit four of those free throws and had eight points in the final quarter. Young finished with a game-high 19 points and also had a hot streak in the second quarter, where he connected on two 3-pointers and scored another eight points to give the Mustangs a 23-21 lead at the break.
“He has so many skills and so many tools he can go to,” Jackson said. “Sometimes I hate that he relies on the 3-point shot, because he’s so quick at getting to the basket, and when he does that, he can make everyone else better.”
Lincoln sophomore center Seth Snoddy added eight points and eight rebounds, but the Bucs feasted on offensive rebounds to get several second- and third-chance opportunities.
The major benefactor was Balboa sophomore forward Lamar Anderson, who had a team-high 12 points on 6-of-11 shooting, almost entirely from put-backs.
The rebounding issues concern Jackson, as the Mustangs have the size and athleticism to control the boards against any team in the AAA.
“We’re going to have to find some heart and some toughness,” Jackson said. “We don’t do great against physical play, especially when it comes to rebounding. Our bigs just have to get better.”
Chris Young — 19
Seth Snoddy — 8
James Gurr — 6
Christopher Posey — 4
Two players tied with 3 points
Lamar Anderson — 12
Jonathan Burnoski — 10
John Bender — 7
DiJon Jones — 5
Fletcher Brown — 3