Lincoln’s Ackerman out as varsity girls coach

Bob Fernandez takes over for remainder of season
By: Russ Edmondson The News Messenger
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It was a chaotic week for the Lincoln High varsity girls basketball team. Five players quit the team and four of them have returned. The coach, Paul Ackerman, has been replaced by his assistant Bob Fernandez. And athletic director Donna Tofft was left with a mess to clean up. Tofft, who is also the junior varsity coach and the former longtime varsity coach, will help Fernandez with the varsity for the rest of the season. “It’s a personnel decision that I cannot say much about,” said Tofft about the coaching change. “I respect (Ackerman) and he’s a good coach.” Ackerman, when reached by phone Wednesday, had no comment. Lincoln lost to visiting Whitney 42-30 on Jan. 14 and the next day five players, including three starters, quit the team. The three starters were juniors Morgan Stewart and Julia Lathrop and sophomore Bailey Humes. The five players were not with the team when Lincoln played at Bear River on Friday and lost 67-14. Lincoln trailed the Bruins 16-1 after one quarter and 30-3 at halftime. Monique Dunievitz (five points), Sara Godbee (three) and Cecilia Sunia-Mafileo (three) led the shorthanded Lincoln squad on the offensive end against Bear River. Four of the five players, including all three starters, have been reinstated to the team. Fernandez is Lincoln’s fifth varsity girls head coach in the last five seasons. Lincoln’s Pioneer Valley League record during that time is 11-40. Tofft coached the team in 2004-05 (8-19 overall, 2-10 in the PVL) and current varsity boys coach Mike Murphy followed the next year (13-14, 6-6). Ben Palafox coached the team the next two years (12-43 overall, 3-21 combined PVL record) and Ackerman was 7-11 and 0-3 this season. Lincoln, coached by Tofft, made the playoffs in the two previous seasons. The Zebras went 6-6 in the PVL in 2002-03 and 2003-04, winning a combined three playoffs games. The Zebras had an overall record of 31-28 in those two seasons. Visiting Whitney led 24-17 at halftime and won the third quarter 11-2 to take control of the game last week. Whitney played man-to-man defense for most of the first half but its coach Joel Williams switched to a 2-2-1, full-court press defense in the third quarter. Sophomore Nikoli Sharp, who led the Zebras with six points, was disappointed with that third quarter. “We just didn’t come out with enough pressure on defense and we weren’t running our plays all the way through,” she said. Whitney junior Kristina Fahey, who scored five points, had a different take on the third quarter. “We came out with more intensity and played as a team,” she said. “We pushed it.” Whitney senior point guard Teagan LeBeau, who is from Lincoln, scored a game-high 15 points. She made three 3-pointers. “(At halftime Williams) said you win games in the third quarter,” LeBeau said. Whitney (10-8 overall, 2-2 in the PVL) had lost its previous league game, 53-32 to Colfax on Friday. “Teagan is that kind of player that can take control of a game,” Williams said. “She was fired up to play Lincoln but more fired up because we lost our last game and we needed a win.” Junior Paige Transue scored 12 points for the Wildcats. “We have more focus now (that league has started) and we are getting a little bit better,” said Sharp, after the Whitney game. “We want to do a lot better than last year and be closer to the playoffs.” The Zebras, who play at Placer on Wednesday, will host Colfax on Friday. Lincoln will also host Mesa Verde on Tuesday, each game starting at 7:30 p.m.