Boys basketball: No. 1 Jefferson holds off Lincoln in battle of 'AA' powers
No. 2 Patriots come up one bucket short against top-ranked Cavaliers
Second-ranked Lincoln has been waiting since before Christmas for another shot at undefeated and top-ranked Jefferson.
Friday night in their home gym the Patriots finally got that shot, and they gave the Cavaliers everything they could handle.
It wasn't enough.
The Cavs improved to 17-0 by outlasting Lincoln 62-60, fighting off multiple runs and challenges from the hosts, right up to the final seconds.
Trailing by four with 15.8 seconds left, Lincoln came up empty but got a steal, and Jack Hilgenberg raced in and scored with 4.4 seconds left, getting fouled on the play. He missed the free throw and the Pats grabbed the rebound, calling timeout with 2.2 seconds to go.
They inbounded the ball across the court to Elliot Whitney, who was forced to take a contested corner 3 at the buzzer which was no good, allowing the Cavs to escape.
"That was a fun game to be a part of," said Jefferson point guard Taylen Ashley, who had a game-high 20 points. "We knew it was going to be a dogfight. We knew they were going to be ready for us and we were looking forward to playing them. In this kind of atmosphere you know everyone's gonna be at their best, so it was a great game and a great win for us."
Jefferson controlled the action much of the night. After Lincoln took an early 10-5 lead, the Cavs closed the first quarter on a 15-6 run and went up by as much as nine before half.
They led 37-33 at half, and seemed to take control again when Kaden Year hit a 3 at the third quarter buzzer to make it 52-45 and Ashley opened the fourth with a long jumper to make it 54-45.
But all night long, Lincoln answered whenever Jefferson looked poised to put it away.
"There was no quit in our guys, which was fun to see," said Pats coach Jeff Halseth. "It didn't come down to that last play. We gave them a few second and third chance opportunities and they got some loose balls I was hoping we could get - that's what it came down to."
JT Rock had 18 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks for Lincoln (15-3), while Whitney added 15. The Cavs made it tough for Lincoln to get the ball to their 7-foot-1 center, and hassled him whenever he had the ball. Rock missed a few close-range looks that could've made a difference, and the Cavalier defense was a factor.
"You've got to make him earn it or he's gonna have 60 (points)," said Jefferson coach Tim Reck. "We contested a lot of shots and that's what you need to do this late in the season."
Year had 18 points and six rebounds for the Cavs, while Mason Riley had 12 points and eight boards. Jefferson had a 42-29 edge on the glass and outshot Lincoln 48 percent to 37 percent. The Pats took almost half of their shots from beyond the arc and were just 6-of-28.
Still, they in no way looked overmatched.
"I told the guys in the locker room I'm not big on moral victories but I'm proud of them," Halseth said. "You should've been in our locker room after the game. Our guys are determined. They want (Jefferson) one more time. I told them you only have to beat them once. We hope it's Saturday night (in the state championship game)."
As for the Cavs, this was another reminder that the road to the championship will be a tough one in spite of their winning streak. But Reck and Ashley said that wasn't a reminder they needed. They expect more games like the one they won on Friday.
"This was a typical intra-city 'AA' basketball game," Reck said. "You might be able to get a lead but there's gonna be ebbs and flows and runs. I loved the way our team battled and stayed with it. They didn't panic. They just went out and made the next play."