How the Lincoln Patriots Punched Their Way to the District Final
Just when you think you have all the answers, the Lincoln Patriots change the questions. After last night's victory over the Washington Warriors in District 2, I took a step back and looked at the Patriots season.
Heading into the year they were ranked first in our ESPN 99.1/KELO/KBHB Radio Poll. The idea of having Addison Park and a lot of talent around made them seem like the popular pick. Three straight losses to start the season had a lot of us questioning.
The Patriots battled back to a 4-5 record with a bit of hope ahead. The season was right in the middle, they were still in a good position to get on top of District 2, and they would have games against the other Sioux Falls schools ahead.
What they didn't envision was a five game losing streak starting with Washington on January 17th, and ending with Watertown on February 7th. During that stretch they also lost games to Sioux City East, a 2OT loss to Washington, and Roosevelt.
Lincoln finished the season strong going 4-2. The combined total for losses to Roosevelt and Rapid City Stevens was seven. The five point decision to Roosevelt was much closer than the score indicated as well.
Heading into the play-in game against Harrisburg, there was a different feel to the team. Having arrived to Lincoln a good hour before the start of the broadcast, the team was wearing NBA/College jerseys during a shoot around. They looked much looser and more comfortable. It paid off as they defeated Harrisburg 77-51.
With how close Lincoln and Washington played against each other this season, I figured last night's contest would be just as good. The Warriors jumped out quick in the 1st leading 5-0, but Lincoln answered back with a 6-0 run. Late in the game, Caleb Rector (who was quiet throughout the game) hit an incredible three pointer from just on the outside of the center circle with three seconds left on the shot clock. On the next possession, Rector came up with a steal that essentially sealed the game for the Patriots. Lincoln won 65-54.
One of the biggest differences I've noticed in their last two games is the shift of Addison Park. In previous contest, it wasn't a surprise to see Park hanging out near the three point line. In the game against Harrisburg, and Washington, Park was more in the post establishing position. Having Park and Malik Dunn down low and working the ball outside-in allowed Lincoln to free up Calvin Krause and Kaleb Johnson on the wings. It has paid dividends for the Patriots and their scoring.
Most importantly, the Patriots have gained momentum at the most crucial time of the year. I can't imagine many teams being excited to have to play them right now.
Lincoln now has the opportunity to punch their ticket to the Class AA State Tournament with a victory over Yankton on Friday night. For a complete look at the district schedule click here.
*You can email Jerry at Jerry@ESPN991.com, or find him on Twitter @Jerrysworld991*