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Getting defensive: Lincoln’s ‘D’ lifts Railsplitters over Iona Prep

Bounding and leap: Lincoln senior Kclejuan Ferguson goes up for the rebound.
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It wasn’t the offensive explosion either team was hoping for.

Lincoln and Iona Prep both struggled to hit their scoring stride in a non-league tilt on Jan. 15, but the Railsplitters managed to grab just enough momentum to pull off the victory, downing the Gaels 53–44 at the Martin Luther King Showcase in Coney Island. Mike Reid led the charge late, with a game-high 21 points and a shutdown defensive performance.

“I feel like I took over,” said the senior. “I made some big shots, but it wasn’t on me. It’s a defensive team.”

The Railsplitters had to rely on that defense as the offense sputtered in the second quarter, putting up just five points. Iona Prep’s height advantage gave the Railsplitters problems all game long, clogging up the paint and making it difficult to sink shots. Lincoln did its best to battle back, holding strong on the other side of the court and forcing a handful of Gaels turnovers.

“We try to play defense,” said senior Donald Cannon-Flores, who racked up nine points and 11 assists. “Defense creates offense.”

Lincoln (15–2) made some key halftime adjustments and came out on fire early in the third quarter, out-scoring Iona Prep 11–2 in the first five minutes of the period. Lincoln coach Dwayne “Tiny” Morton said spurring the offense after the half was simple as the Railsplitters were determined to turn the game around.

“Just had to be unselfish,” he said. “Pass to the open man. Run the offense. Play basketball the way it’s supposed to be played.”

The team found a way to break through Iona Prep’s defense throughout the second half, working the ball into the open floor and seizing control of the game’s tempo.

“Coach just said we need to pass the ball more,” said Reid on what changed the matchup’s momentum.

Iona Prep (9–5) was able to stay close throughout the game, thanks in large part to guard Bryce Willis. The Gaels standout racked up a team-high 15 points, including a pair of shots from downtown that gave his squad a bit of late-game confidence.

Iona Prep rallied late in the third quarter — going on a 7–1 run in the final three minutes — but Lincoln matched with its own scoring outburst to open the fourth. The Gaels made it a nine-point game with just over four minutes left, but that was as close as they’d get.

Lincoln held down defensively, and once again, hit shots when it had to. The Railsplitters wrapped up the victory with a seven-point run in the fourth quarter.

“They want to play to win,” said Morton on his team closing out the game. “They care more about winning than accolades.”

It’s a big-time victory for the Railsplitters, particularly against a top-tier team from the Catholic High School Athletic Association, and while the offense wasn’t picture-perfect, Lincoln walked off the court with a fresh burst of confidence.

“I feel we’re the best high school in New York City,” said Cannon-Flores, “With us playing defense and rolling on offense, we should be good.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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