By Jeremy Balan
The Lincoln boys basketball team’s 69-61 loss to visiting St. Ignatius on Saturday night left a bittersweet taste in the mouth of Lincoln head coach Matt Jackson.
On one hand, the Mustangs hung with a West Catholic Athletic League opponent throughout. On the other, they were in a position to upset the Wildcats, but squandered the opportunity.
Trailing just 65-61 with 52 seconds remaining, a well-executed, full-court trap by Demetrius Williams and Seth Snoddy forced a St. Ignatius turnover. With an opportunity to cut the St. Ignatius lead to a single possession, the Mustangs threw the ball away on consecutive possessions to give the Wildcats breathing room.
“Take away a couple turnovers in key situations and the game is different,” Jackson said. “We really needed to take care of the ball in those situations, but we’ll get better.”
What may have stung even more was that the Mustangs (0-6) largely outplayed St. Ignatius (5-1) for three quarters, but in the second, the Wildcats played their best and that was enough.
Behind 12 second-quarter points from senior shooting guard Daniel MacLean-Vernic, the Wildcats shot 9-of-13 from the floor, outscored Lincoln 26-11 in the second frame and turned a 12-9 Lincoln lead after the first quarter to a 35-23 St. Ignatius advantage at the halftime break. The four-point spread late in the fourth quarter was as close as the Mustangs would get to regaining the lead.
“I’m encouraged because of the flashes of really good basketball,” said St. Ignatius head coach Tim Reardon. “But the consistency – I mean, we have wild momentum changes, where it looks like it’s going to be a 25-point win and it turns into a dogfight.”
St. Ignatius junior point guard Trevor Dunbar scored all nine of the Wildcats’ points in the first quarter and finished with a game-high 19 points. The St. Ignatius offense was largely ineffective early, but got bailed out by Dunbar, who hit three mid-range jump shots and a three-pointer in the opening quarter.
Even in victory, Reardon was not pleased with another close call against a public-school opponent. The Wildcats only have one loss (to Westmoor), but beat Aragon by four points on Friday.
“They have no reason to come out and think they’re way better than anybody, but there were parts of this game where they were walking around almost cocky,” Reardon said. “I don’t know how they can do that the way we’re playing.”
Defending athletic guards has been an issue for the Wildcats and they had difficulties again against the Mustangs. Lincoln senior guards James Gurr and Mitchell Lee regularly penetrated to get open mid-range jump shots that were nearly unstoppable.
The most encouraging sign for the Mustangs, however, was the play Snoddy and fellow junior Davion Telfor. Both had near double-doubles (Snoddy finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, while Telfor hit three three-pointers, and had 13 points and nine rebounds) and will present a mismatch inside for most Academic Athletic Association teams. Both had key moments in the second half to keep the game close and Snoddy hit his final four shots from the floor.
“That second quarter did us in, but our guys kept fighting,” Jackson said. “We’ve been working on staying together, staying composed, competing and having pride on the court. There’s been a couple losses [this season] where we’ve kinda thrown in the towel, but not tonight.”
St. Ignatius countered in the paint with a double-double from senior forward Julian Marcu (13 points, 10 rebounds), but Reardon would like to see more contributions from his seniors.
“We’ve had moments where I know we can play and compete in the WCAL, but we just don’t have enough of those moments,” Reardon said. “I’m waiting to see some senior leadership figure out how we can do it. One of the problems is that two of those guys that should be the leaders have only had two practices with us.”
Those two seniors, Albert Waters and Andrew Vollert, missed a significant chunk of the early season due to St. Ignatius’ extended football season, but took strides in the second half against Lincoln. The pair combined to score 17 points (all in the second half) and Vollert brought down nine rebounds, while Dunbar didn’t get a shot off in the fourth quarter.
“There’s a lot of guys on their heels looking to see what Trevor does. We’re not going to beat any good teams that way,” Reardon said. “If teams want to take Trevor out of the game, they’re going to, and someone else has to do it.”
Trevor Dunbar – 19
Daniel MacLean-Vernic – 13
Julian Marcu – 13
Albert Waters – 9
Andrew Vollert – 8
James Gurr – 16
Seth Snoddy – 14
Davion Telfor – 13
Mitchell Lee – 11
Demetrius Williams – 6