Playoff hoops: Lincoln advances while N.E., New Foundations fall

On Tues­day, the boys Pub­lic League bas­ket­ball post­season began with a pre­lim­in­ary round of play­off con­tests. There were 10 total games, with the win­ners ad­van­cing to Thursday’s first round and the losers be­ing elim­in­ated. A couple of area teams played yes­ter­day. Here’s how they fared:

CLASS AAAA (seeds in par­en­theses)

(9) South­ern 54, (8) North­east 51

In an un­even 2013-14 cam­paign that fea­tured plenty of peaks and val­leys, the young Vik­ings came up just short against vis­it­ing South­ern. After gradu­at­ing his en­tire start­ing five from 2012-13, head coach Ira Stern guided a very in­ex­per­i­enced group back to the post­season, but key mis­takes — namely, turnovers, which Stern es­tim­ated his team had around 25 — ul­ti­mately de­railed North­east against Di­vi­sion B’s South­ern (9-10, 7-6 Di­vi­sion B).

Ju­ni­or lead­ing scorer El­mange Wat­son notched 22 points (his 19th con­sec­ut­ive double-di­git scor­ing game) and seni­or guard Rashee Walls ad­ded 15, but it wasn’t enough to thwart South­ern’s bal­anced ef­fort (Kah­siaan Kay led the Rams with 15, while Khaid Jones tal­lied 13).

“It was our sixth game where we either had a lead or were tied with three minutes left in the game,” a dis­ap­poin­ted Stern said by phone on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon. “We’re very young, so fin­ish­ing out games was a prob­lem for us all sea­son. Everything was new to these guys. It was a great run, and the coaches and I feel like we got everything we could out of the kids. They were a great group.”

North­east fin­ished 10-9 over­all, go­ing 6-6 in Di­vi­sion C play. Seni­or cap­tain and the Vik­ings’ best post play­er, Will Smart (also a foot­ball cap­tain), will gradu­ate, as will Walls and for­ward Dalv­in John­son. But un­like the end of last year, Stern can enter this off­season know­ing he will bring back a ton of tal­ent, in­clud­ing the team’s top two scorers in ju­ni­or guards Wat­son and De­shan Brown. Wat­son was one of the top scorers in the di­vi­sion — as well as the en­tire city — and should be a ter­ror as a seni­or if he lim­its turnovers and a some­times ques­tion­able shot se­lec­tion.

Know­ing he will bring back a tal­en­ted back­court, Stern said the Vik­ings must im­prove down low if they want to be a ma­jor con­tender in the league. Look­ing around the rest of his di­vi­sion, North­east’s second-year head coach stated that height wins (he cited Cent­ral’s 6-foot-5 cen­ter Chris Bing, who helped guide his team to a 20-2 re­cord this sea­son, in­clud­ing 12-0 in Di­vi­sion C), and he’d like to have more of it.

“We need to catch a break if we want to stay com­pet­it­ive,” Stern said. “We have to get some­body tall that wants to come play here. I think we have shoot­ers, but we need to get one or two guys to play down low. One guy really can change a pro­gram. If I had someone like Chris Bing, I might not lose a game, either. We have a great group of kids, and if every­body comes back and we can taller, we’re go­ing to be a very good team.”

And des­pite his dis­ap­point­ment and ut­ter hatred of los­ing, the three-point loss to South­ern wasn’t enough to di­min­ish the old-school head coach’s en­thu­si­asm for next sea­son. Heck, he’s already look­ing for­ward to it.

“I’m already 100 per­cent ex­cited,” he said.

(7) Lin­coln 77, (10) Kens­ing­ton 54

Lin­coln sure picked the per­fect time to get white-hot.

Head coach Al Brown’s Railsplit­ters bull­dozed Kens­ing­ton from start-to-fin­ish, win­ning their fifth straight and ad­van­cing to face Cent­ral on Thursday (3:15 p.m., at Cent­ral). The Lan­cers went un­defeated in Di­vi­sion C dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son but did have a few scares, in­clud­ing a nar­row 63-60 Jan. 2 vic­tory that Lin­coln led by eight after three quar­ters. 

The Railsplit­ters (12-7, 7-5) are led by sopho­more point guard Blair Bowes, who scored 19 against Kens­ing­ton. Bowes, who is just as ad­ept passing the bas­ket­ball as he is scor­ing it, is av­er­aging 23.8 points in his last six games.

And he’s got plenty of help. Seni­or shoot­ing guard Ray­mond Fred is a sniper on the peri­met­er and nearly auto­mat­ic at the foul line, while un­der­rated seni­or for­ward Akquil Har­ring­ton burned Kens­ing­ton (11-5, 10-2 Di­vi­sion D) for a team-high 20 to go with 10 boards. Ju­ni­or Ish­mael Mar­shall can too burn op­pos­ing de­fenses if they spend too much time try­ing to stop Lin­coln’s top three. 

When the Railsplit­ters are on, they’re deadly, no mat­ter who they’re play­ing. A win over Cent­ral would be a ma­jor state­ment for Brown’s pro­gram, and after giv­ing one away dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son, Brown and com­pany be­lieve it can be done.


(5) Dob­bins 67, (12) New Found­a­tions 47

In its first Pub­lic League sea­son, New Found­a­tions Charter School (NFCS) (8001 Tor­res­dale Ave.) en­joyed plenty of suc­cess, go­ing 9-3 in Di­vi­sion E and 13-7 over­all. However, it was not against Di­vi­sion B/Pub­lic League main­stay Dob­bins (10-10, 7-6), who used a 41-23 first half to cruise to vic­tory in NFCS’s first play­off bas­ket­ball game in the league.

Devante Laws scored 13 of his 17 points in that de­cid­ing first half, and team­mate An­dre Cannedy also ad­ded 17. For NFCS, lead­ing scorer Keith Blassin­gale led the way again with 16, while seni­or Nate Comp ad­ded 10. 

Des­pite the loss, NFCS has much to look for­ward to next sea­son, as head coach Ry­an Kilkenny will bring back his top four scorers: Blassin­gale, Travon Wil­li­ams (ju­ni­or), Matt Camp­bell (ju­ni­or) and Nazir Wilson (fresh­man) are all eli­gible to re­turn in 2014-15.

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