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ATHLETES OF THE WEEK

Lincoln High Seniors

Boys Basketball
By: Jim Linsdau of The News Messenger
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The Lincoln High boys basketball team’s season came to a close Friday in Manteca, although the game was not close the Fighting Zebras never stopped giving it their very best effort.

“There was just not enough time for us to come back. We were down by 25, 26 points entering the fourth quarter,” Lincoln head coach Robert Ash said after watching a video of his team’s play at Manteca. “You can’t tell that the game is over; they’re still diving on those balls, taking charges. Not rebounding very well, but that’s not much fault of theirs because we’re tiny and they’re huge.”

Physically, the Buffaloes had three players 6-feet-8-inches and taller. The Zebras’ had no player more than 6-3. But where Lincoln lacked in size all season they made up in heart.

The Zebras compiled a 24-5 record and finished second in the Pioneer Valley League. They crushed Christian Brothers to open the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Playoffs, but suffered the same fate in Manteca. However, they provided Lincoln fans with some of the finest basketball a “tiny” team could provide.

“I think first of all (they are) an incredibly unselfish group,” Ash said. “We never had to talk about roles on the team; like everyone just accepted it.”

Ash said he had to put some of his players in unfamiliar positions because of the team’s lack of size. No one, not even his seniors, objected.

Zach Lowe, 6-3, moved to point guard; Willie Watanabe, 6-3, took over at center. Seniors PJ Manley and Brandon Lessard, both also 6-3, filled in wherever needed, and Zack Detillion and Scott Trembinski played guard or forward taking shots from long range or driving into the heart of an opponent’s defense.

Few will forget Trembinski’s last second 3-point net-splitter against Rio Americano to beat the Raiders 47-44. Or Lowe’s 37 points to help defeat Foothill and Detillion’s 34 points in Lincoln’s victory over Christian Brothers. And the way Watanabe, Manley and Lessard crashed the boards against teams much bigger than they.

However, rebounding always remained a team thing and no one showed any fear when it came to going for the ball.

After Lincoln compiled a 15-0 record by the end of December, Ash said it was because, as a team, they found ways to win every aspect of the game – rebounding, free throws, turnovers, etc.

“It’s almost like this group proves everything coaches talk about. It’s like a team game,” Ash said. “You can be successful if you do the little things and you do them well, and you do it every single day.”

Lincoln’s seniors may not leave behind any banners, but they will most certainly leave behind a team legacy unmatched.