Star guard Isaiah Whitehead is the face of Lincoln boys basketball right now — the big name at the big-time basketball school. But he was just one part of the team that put the Railspliters back on top of the Public School Athletic League.
Led by forwards Desi Rodriguez and Elijah Davis, Lincoln topped borough rival Thomas Jefferson 65–52 in the Class AA title game Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. The Orange Wave double-teamed Whitehead wherever he went, leaving others to pick up the slack.
“My teammates stepped up big today,” said Whitehead, who had just four of his 12 points in the second half and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Rodriguez and Davis, who both transferred into Lincoln this year, each turned in big performances. Rodriguez, who the team considers its X-factor, scored 16 points and grabbed 17 rebounds to earn most valuable player honors. Davis dropped in 18 points and hit countless big baskets in the second half. Rodriguez said he didn’t want to disappoint coach Dwayne ‘Tiny” Morton.
“I just wanted to come out and play hard,” he said. “My coach was very emotional about getting back to the Garden.”
The last time Lincoln (26–5) was there it lost in 2011. This victory gives the Railsplitters their first title since 2009, before rival Boys & Girls won three consecutive crowns.
Morton said he was happy for Whitehead, who was under pressure to win his first title since he name is continually put among the best players ever at the Coney Island school. The coach also got the joy of celebrating victory with his son Trevonn, who had seven points.
“It’s probably the most emotional victory I’ve had since I’ve been at Lincoln,” said his father, who has won eight city titles.
Jefferson, which beat Lincoln once during the regular season, opened the third quarter on a 12–0 run to grab a 42–39 lead with 3:42 remaining in the frame. Lincoln wasted no time answering back. Davis attacked the paint and scored 11 points during an 18–1 spurt over the third and fourth quarters to put the Railsplitters up 57–43 with 3:06 left in the game.
“I tried to stay aggressive, keep on attacking the basket,” Davis said. “We were settling for a lot of jump shots.”
He helped hand Jefferson (26–6) its second straight defeat in the final. Orange Wave coach Lawrence “Bud” Pollard credited Lincoln with challenging shots in the paint during the decisive run and his players didn’t fight through it.
Star guard Jaquan “Son Son” Lynch scored just two points in his final high school game. Jermoine Faison tallied 11 points and 12 rebounds. Pollard isn’t discouraged by another defeat in the title game.
“It says we are on our way,” Pollard said. “We’re just not there yet. There is no quit in my vocabulary. I’m going to keep fighting and hopefully we get here again and win one.”Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewsk