By Jeremy Balan
In the high-paced, guard-heavy Academic Athletic Association boys basketball league, hustle usually reigns supreme.
But Lincoln relied mostly on muscle to beat defending San Francisco Section champ Mission 69-55 on the road Wednesday in each team’s AAA opener.
The Mustangs (5-11, 1-0) pounded the ball inside, resulting in 34 points in the paint and 27 more at the free-throw line. Senior guard James Gurr hit three jump shots, but the rest of the 17 field goals Lincoln made came in the key.
Junior forward Davion Telfor led the charge with a team-high 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor and 6-foot-7 junior center Seth Snoddy added 13 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
“The focus was to get easy shots, and if you can get them at the basket, whether it was from our guards driving and attacking or our bigs posting up, we were going to do that,” said Lincoln head coach Matt Jackson.
Lincoln shot 45 percent from the floor, but went to the free-throw line so often (at one point, Lincoln led Mission 16-1 in free-throw attempts) that the Mustangs took 15 fewer shots from the floor than Mission.
“Luckily, there aren’t a lot of teams [in the AAA] with size, because we got killed early inside today,” said Mission head coach Arnold Zelaya, who doesn’t have a player taller than 6-foot-2 on his roster this season. “We got better at it, but it’s something we’re going to have to deal with.”
The Mustangs had their way with Mission (3-12, 0-1) in the lane, but ultimately built their 33-16 halftime lead by holding the Bears to five points in the second quarter, where they shot 2-of-12 from the floor. Telfor and Snoddy also had standout defensive games, combining for six blocks and four steals, and Mission’s 16 points before the break is the fewest the Bears have scored in a half against a AAA opponent during Zelaya’s five years at the helm of the program.
“We played good defense too – 11 points in the first quarter and five points in the second,” Jackson said. “That set the tone.”
Mission outscored Lincoln in the second half, but never got the deficit under 10 points. Lincoln’s biggest lead was a 62-40 advantage midway through the fourth quarter, when Gurr scored seven straight points to start a 9-0 Lincoln run.
“The idea, for us, is to play full-court, pressure the guards and really minimize the big guys’ presence,” Zelaya said. “We didn’t do that at all in the first half and dug ourselves such a hole that it was too late to get out of it.”
Mission senior guard Kevin Murray, who played in his first game since being suspended from the team after the Bears’ season-opening loss to Riordan, looked understandably rusty early and only had three points in the first half, but finished with a game-high 23. Murray’s 13 points in the fourth quarter were more than any other Mission player totaled in the game.
Senior guard Antoine Porter was the only other Mission player to score in double figures with 12 points and the pair of guards combined to take a staggering 41 shots from the floor, largely on jumpers from the perimeter. The rest of the Bears took just 20 shots.
“Some of the young guys are starting to step up, and as Antoine and Kevin learn to trust those guys a little bit more, things will get better,” Zelaya said. “Right now, shot selection is something we need to work on.”
The Mustangs may have won relatively easily, but they had a scary moment early in the fourth quarter. Senior guard Mitchell Lee lost his balance on a drive and hit his head on the knee of a Mission defender, which opened up a substantial cut. Lee bled heavily on the floor before coaches and police officers in attendance rushed to help, and was taken out of the gym on a stretcher by paramedics about 15 minutes later.
Jackson said late Wednesday that doctors closed the cut with seven stitches and Lee will miss at least one game, but was otherwise healthy.
Davion Telfor – 21
James Gurr – 17
Seth Snoddy – 13
Demetrius Williams – 6
Mitchell Lee – 5
Kevin Murray – 23
Antoine Porter – 12
Joji Kurotani – 6
Jerrel Stancil – 5
Demetrius Thibeaux – 5