Lincoln handles Washington behind JT Rock's 30 points

Iowa State-bound center dominates on both ends in city rivalry win

Lincoln's JT Rock plays defense against Washington during their game on Thursday, Jan. 26 at the Lincoln gym.
Matt Zimmer

The No. 2 Lincoln boys didn't exactly come into Thursday night's rivalry clash against Washington with a lot of momentum.

"Yesterday was probably the worst practice we've had," said coach Jeff Halseth. His players agreed.

But the Patriots decided the best way to shake that off was to forget about gameplans, or scouts - even their opponent.

The Pats were tired - this was their fourth game in seven days - and Halseth sensed that fatigue was more mental than physical. So Halseth's message before they took the floor against the Warriors was a simple one.

"Go have fun."


Lincoln's Jack Hilgenberg dribbles while Washington's Mandalla Mohamed defends during a high school basketball game on Thursday, Jan. 26 in the Lincoln gym.
Matt Zimmer

It worked, almost immediately.

Lincoln used an 18-2 run to take control in the first quarter, dominating play and going up by as much as 23 on their way to an 80-68 win over the Warriors at the Lincoln gym.

JT Rock, the 7-foot-1 Iowa State-bound center, had a monster game to lead the way, finishing with 30 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots, while Elliot Whitney added 21 points and Tate Shafer 14. The Pats (10-1) made 15-of-32 from 3-point land, zipping the ball effectively along the perimeter and getting Rock enough inside touches to make sure there was always room for a jump shot no matter how many 3s fell.

"It was important to come out together and play hard and be on the same page all the way and we did that," said Rock, who was 10-of-12 from the floor, including 4-of-5 from outside the arc. "We shared the ball really well and were connected every step of the way."

Lincoln's Jack Hilgenberg dribbles around a screen set by teammate JT Rock on Thursday, Jan. 26 at the Lincoln gym. The Patriots defeated Washington 80-68.
Matt Zimmer

Whitney scored nine straight points in the first quarter to put the Pats in front after a slow first couple minutes, and the lead was 12 by the end of the quarter.

Washington had a good day from the arc, too, going 10-of-25, but they had difficulty getting inside. They challenged Rock probably more than they should have, as the blocks came fast and furious for the 7-footer. Though he was credited with five blocks he impacted or changed perhaps a dozen.

"If they want to keep coming in the lane I'll go meet 'em," Rock said. "I just take that as what I do. That's my job - to defend the paint and contest and block shots."

Washington's AJ Akot throws down a dunk against Lincoln on Thursday, Jan. 26 at the Lincoln gym.
Matt Zimmer

AJ Akot had 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Warriors (5-4), while Mandalla Mohamed had 12 points and nine boards and Cole Peterson 12 points. The Warriors grabbed 21 offensive rebounds, but shooting 33 percent from the floor kept them from making a serious run.


That wasn't for a lack of effort, but the Patriots were simply too sharp on this night.

"You could kind of feel the energy before the game," Whitney said. "This is a special group of guys. We're pretty mature, so after (Wednesday's poor practice) we said let's buckle down and lock in on this game. We came out with energy and things just clicked."

Matt Zimmer is a Sioux Falls native and longtime sports writer. He graduated from Washington High School where he played football, legion baseball and developed his lifelong love of the Minnesota Twins and Vikings. After graduating from St. Cloud State University, he returned to Sioux Falls, began a long career in amateur baseball and started working as a sports freelancer. Zimmer was hired as a sport reporter at the Argus Leader in 2004, where he covered Sioux Falls high schools and colleges before moving to the South Dakota State University beat in 2014.
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