Lincoln tops Foothill, earns shot to slay Dragons

Zebras back where they were last year, at Sac High in second round
By: Galen Kusic, Special to the News Messenger
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The eighth-seeded Lincoln Fighting Zebras advance to the second round of the Sac Joaquin section Division III playoffs for the second straight year with a resounding win over the No. 9 Foothill Mustangs 59-49 at home Wednesday night. The Zebras smothering half-court defense forced Foothill into ill-advised shots and Lincoln capitalized on second-chance opportunities on the offensive glass, forcing the Mustangs into severe foul trouble all game. "We basically knew we had to slow things down," said senior forward Keenan Hale. "Our goal was to get their bigs in foul trouble and get them out of there." While Foothill got out to a hot start, leading 14-11 after a quarter- the Zebras dug down deep and pounded the ball inside. Big buckets in the closing seconds of the second quarter by Hale and senior guard Steven Bobyk helped the Zebras take a 25-20 lead into the half. Hale led all scorers with 20 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and a block. Bobyk had a big game as well, contributing 11 crucial points. "Keenan is pretty much unstoppable inside," said Bobyk. "So when we get it to him, it's done.". Coming out of halftime, the Mustangs continued to press, causing the Zebras countless problems getting into a half-court set. Foothill forced 17 Lincoln turnovers, to just seven of their own. After senior Mustang guard Nick Stanley drew two trips to the line, the Mustangs tied it up at 32 when senior guard Devonn Hightower put in a lay-up with three minutes to play in the quarter. Stanley hit four three's in the game, and finished with 19 points and five boards to pace Foothill. "We got lucky, let's be real," said Lincoln head coach Ben Palafox. "We did look up the floor at times, but we don't have answers for that type of press, we just hope to be able to pass out of it." It would go back and forth until Bobyk hit another big shot with a minute left in the quarter to go up 38-36, and Carlos Jaimes hit a short jumper as time expired to put the Zebras up 40-36 going into the fourth quarter. "We do a really good job of moving without the basketball," said Palafox. "You take what they give you. We fought through the mistakes and got through it. We showed up tonight." Mustang senior guard Galico Angelo got hot in the second half and finished with 11 points, cutting the lead to 44-43 with just six minutes to play. Forward Fidel Cadenas was a force as well for Foothill, putting up eight points to go with seven rebounds. The Zebras were in a fight the rest of the fourth quarter until Hale came through again with a tip-in put-back with just over four minutes to play to put Lincoln up 48-44. "We didn't convert, and we got killed on the boards," said Foothill head coach Drew Hibbs. "We would have hoped for a better showing. We haven't scored much the second half of the season, and when we don't hit perimeter shots we're in trouble. That's exactly what happened tonight." Lincoln senior center Jacob Courage all but sealed it for the Zebras when he hit a baseline baby hook with just under two minutes to play to increase the lead to 52-44. Courage had a big second half, scoring 12 of his 16 to go along with eight rebounds, four blocks and two assists. Bobyk added another three with just over a minute to go to shut the door on the Mustangs, 55-44. Foothill's season ends with a 21-7 record overall, 10-3 on the road. Lincoln will move on and take its 22-5 record on the road to visit the No. 1-seeded Sacramento High Dragons, the team that bounced them from last year's postseason. "We're playing arguably the best team in the area," Palofox said. "We're going to give it a shot, and we're excited to go out and play them, so we'll see what happens." "This is a big momentum builder, we're going to try and slow things down and do the same thing Friday," Courage said. "I think if we can get the ball inside we'll be okay, but our guards have to step up again like they did tonight."