All that’s missing now for Lance Stephenson is a PSAL record fourth city championship.
The Lincoln phenom became the all-time leading scorer in New York State boys’ high school-basketball history in an 81-61 trouncing of Thomas Jefferson – the Railsplitters’ fifth straight Brooklyn borough crown – at LIU Sunday evening.
Off the opening tip, the 6-foot-5 Stephenson went in for an uncontested layup, one of the easiest baskets of his transcendent career. He surpassed former Lincoln star Sebastian Telfair’s total of 2,785 points. The game was stopped momentarily to acknowledge the remarkable honor. He is now at 2,808 – and counting – after scoring 24 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in the Railsplitters’ third victory this year over the Orange Wave.
“That means a lot,” he said while holding a basketball with the record-setting point total written on it in black marker. He later added: “I wasn’t trying to break the record. I just played hard. I felt I earned it.”
“That’s a credit to Lance Stephenson and Lincoln,” PSAL boys’ basketball commissioner Mel Goldstein said. “The PSAL is very proud of him.”
Stephenson had six points in a 12-2 run in the second quarter, pushing Lincoln’s lead to 29-16 with 5:01 remaining in the first half. He put a cap to the evening with a windmill slam in transition, extending the lead to 23, 80-57, with 2:04 remaining.
“He had the skills as a freshman to dominate,” Lincoln coach Dwayne (Tiny) Morton said.
His teammates – despite playing their fifth game in six days – were just as impressive. James Padgett had 18 points and 16 rebounds, Darwin (Buddha) Ellis notched 18 points and eight assists and Shaquille Stokes chipped in 14 points and eight assists.
Coming off losses to No. 4 St. Patrick (N.J.) in the Nike Super Six and No. 12 Westchester (Calif.) in the Primetime Shootout over the weekend, Lincoln (17-10) took advantage of the shorthanded Orange Wave, who were without guards David Coley (knee) and Keith Spellman (back) because of injury.
Jefferson got within 55-45 after six consecutive points from Wright, but Lincoln answered with a 6-0 run, four coming from Stokes, to start the fourth quarter. Wright was later ejected after he was whistled for his second technical foul, an automatic two-game ejection.
Stephenson, who had games of 50 and 48 points in borough playoff victories this week over FDR and Transit Tech, respectively, has been the center of attention since arriving at Lincoln his freshman year. He was the subject of a Internet-based reality show, called Born Ready; he has drawn comparison to Coney Island stars Stephon Marbury and Sebastian Telfair; he also drew a one-game suspension for an alleged altercation with teammate Devon (Fatty) McMillan last season.
“It’s hard for him to be a normal kid,” Morton said.
He has only left positive impressions on the court recently, leading Lincoln to three city championships and two state Federation Class AA crowns. He recently revealed he was invited to the McDonald’s All-American Game.
While Lincoln may have gone 2-11 in non-league competition, losing to several opponents that were ranked nationally at one time or another, they seem well on their way back to Madison Square Garden. Lincoln lost just once – at Boys & Girls for the third consecutive year – against PSAL competition.
“I want to win the city,” Stephenson said.
He has been extremely focused of late. When Morton suggested the Railsplitters take a few days off after the marathon week of games, Stephenson vetoed the move. In December, they had a week off and Lincoln came back shaky. Instead, the team will be off Monday and return to practice, at Stephenson’s behest, Tuesday.
“He wants to keep running and working,” Stokes, a sophomore guard, said. “He’s a winner. He’ll do anything to win.”
As far as the all-time greats go, Stephenson is certainly in the conversation. Jefferson coach Lawrence Pollard said he has a little of Telfair and Marbury in him – mainly the two point guard’s quickness and skill sets – but also the strength of a forward. Morton, who coached Telfair during Lincoln’s three-year run, would like to wait.
“He’s not finished,” Morton said. “I can’t compare his four years yet (to Telfair). I don’t want to jinx him.”