By Jeremy Balan
The Lincoln girls basketball team has won three games over quality private-school City opponents by employing a style of play that is unorthodox in the girls game.
Much more prevalent in boys basketball, the Mustangs’ high-pressure, high-output scheme was on display again in a 65-59 win over host Lick-Wilmerding in the first round of the Lick-Wilmerding Tournament on Thursday.
Lick’s 17 turnovers were not an unusual number for a high school contest, but 14 came on steals by Lincoln, fueling a potent fast-break offense that scored 32 points in transition.
The Mustangs (4-2) also turned defensive rebounds into immediate fast breaks, signaled by a one-word shout from head coach Jason Lee. “Go,” is all Lee says on the sideline once the Mustangs get possession of the ball.
“My philosophy is to make them work,” Lee said. “I don’t mind losing by 30 to a good team if we make them work — rather than losing by five to a mediocre team just walking up and down the court.”
The easy scores in transition allowed the Mustangs to shoot 55 percent from the field and Lincoln also got a standout performance from senior guard Maggie Chen.
Chen, who was also a second-team All-Academic Athletic Association selection in volleyball, scored a game-high 20 points to go along with more game highs in rebounds (nine), steals (six) and blocks (two). What was most impressive about Chen’s performance was that she shot 9-of-10 from the field and hit her last eight attempts. Chen got her share of layups, but 12 of her points came on jump shots.
“She’s probably just 90 pounds and she’s playing her first year on varsity,” Lee said. “We’ve needed someone to consistently score, not with ease, but taking good shots.”
Lick sophomore guard Julia Thompson countered with 19 points of her own, but the Tigers (5-2) got sucked into the Mustangs’ desired pace and could not erase a 32-25 halftime deficit.
The Tigers’ greatest advantage was in the frontcourt with 6-foot center Erica Crew and fellow senior forward Grace Brownrigg, but they often settled for quick jump shots and made only 1-of-13 attempts from three-point range. Crew finished with seven points and eight rebounds coming off the bench and Brownrigg added 12 points and six rebounds.
“We needed to realize we had to play to our advantages,” said Lick head coach Daniel Tesfai. “In the second quarter, we finished well because we went to our bigs, but we didn’t stick to our plan and our style of play.”
Lincoln advances to face undefeated International in the winner’s bracket semifinal. The Mustangs will again be outsized and will seek their fourth straight win over a City private school against the Jaguars, who routed Drew 60-22 in the first round.
“When we go to tournaments, I always want to at least go 2-1,” Lee said. “We could have lost [in the first round] and won two easy games, but this is a winnable tournament for us.”
Maggie Chen – 20
Nina Joyner – 14
Michelle Wong – 10
Ezra DeAsis – 9
Sophia Nguyen – 9
Julia Thompson – 19
Aki Shurelds – 13
Grace Brownrigg – 12
Erica Crew – 7
Two players tied with 4 points