Coach questions Zebras' commitment

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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Ben Palafox takes roll as a history teacher at Lincoln High School, but he never imagined doing it with his boys basketball team. He figured his players would know better than to skip practice. Seven players missed at least one practice last week, however. Palafox harped on that instead of critiquing his team’s performance after Tuesday night’s 85-55 loss to Del Oro in Lincoln. Palafox also laid down the law. The next time a player chooses to miss practice will be the last time. He will take the player’s gear. Palafox has had enough, and the season is slipping away. “I always try to be straight up with the guys,” Palafox said. “We’ve got to overcome some obstacles.” Tuesday’s loss was the fourth in a row for the Zebras, who are 5-9 with two nonleague games remaining. Lincoln will tip off its Pioneer Valley League schedule Jan. 18 when it hosts Bear River. Palafox had hoped the holiday break would provide ample time for his team to hone the up-tempo style he installed this season. That was before several of his players played hooky last week. An opportunity to improve was wasted .Practices turned into a puzzle, with Palafox trying to figure out who could fill in where. “That cost us,” he said. “We had an opportunity to get better.” Palafox broke away from his strategy of substituting five players at a time in two-minute intervals Tuesday. A few players lost minutes for skipping practice, leaving the others to play longer. “We couldn’t get into our rotation,” Palafox said. “The players are used to going all out for two minutes and then coming out. They were playing five minutes (against Del Oro) and ran out of gas.” Lincoln matched Del Oro basket for basket in the first quarter, which ended in an 18-all tie. The Golden Eagles then pulled away by opening the second period with 10 unanswered points. The Zebras managed to score just seven points in the second quarter and trailed 45-25 at halftime. The deficit grew to 28 points after three quarters, and the fourth period was garbage time. Senior Christian Perkins led the Zebras with 12 points. Junior Eric Corter added 10. “We got some good looks in the first quarter and hit some shots,” Palafox said. “But (Del Oro) did a good job of taking us out of our transition. We’re not consistent right now. We’ve digressed.”