Zebras get a shot of Courage

Placer’s comeback forces OT, where Lincoln senior scores 6 of his 31 points
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Jacob Courage’s knees were feeling great Wednesday night at Earl Crabbe Gym, much to the chagrin of the Placer High boys basketball team. Courage, who has battled through knee pain for much of the season, poured in a season-high 31 points and Lincoln battled for a 60-53 overtime win over the Hillmen. Placer trailed 45-37 with just over three minutes to play, but roared back, using a scrambling full-court press and perfect free-throw shooting to tie the game at 51 and force overtime. Courage made sure Lincoln remained in the Pioneer Valley League title hunt by dominating the extra four-minute session. The 6-foot-7 forward scored the first six points of overtime and blocked his fifth shot of the night as the Zebras (15-3 overall, 3-1 PVL) pulled away. “We kind of put our heads down when they made that run,” Courage said. “But we just had to come out with more intensity (in overtime) and get the win. We always know it’s going to be a crazy atmosphere when we come up here. We really worked on staying concentrated and running our game and not playing theirs.” Courage dislocated each of his knees in separate incidents earlier this season and must ice them regularly to keep them from swelling. He’s played limited minutes for much of the year, but he looked spry against the Hillmen (10-9, 2-2). “That’s a big step forward for him,” Lincoln coach Ben Palofax said. “We really needed another guy to step forward. Without him, obviously it’s a big difference on the scoreboard.” Senior James Taber sparked Placer’s fourth-quarter rally with five straight points to cut the lead to one. After a steal by Darren Centi, Josh Klem found Michael Jensen wide open on the wing for a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1 minute, 36 seconds left. Lincoln answered with a bucket from Keenan Hale, Jensen nailed a pair of free throws, then Courage scored on a putback. After a Placer turnover, Courage was fouled on a rebound and hit two free throws to give the visitors a 51-49 lead. Jensen was fouled on a drive to the hoop on the other end and calmly sank two free throws with six seconds left in the game. The Hillmen seemed to have all the momentum heading into overtime, but Lincoln immediately jumped in front and held Placer to just two points in OT. “We just said, ‘Look, we’re not going to win it on the offensive end,’” Palofax said. “They’re going to do a great job taking us out of our offense, so we’ve got to take care of it on the defensive end and get some opportunities in transition and with offensive rebounds and we did. We were fortunate.” Jensen finished with 19 points and was 8-for-8 from the free throw line. Josh Klem scored 10 of his 12 in the first half and hustled for 11 rebounds. Centi and Taber scored nine points apiece for the Hillmen, who played without senior starter Anthony Amara. He is out for two weeks with a minor knee injury. Hale scored 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Lincoln. Eight of Courage’s 10 rebounds came on the offensive end. “He really hurt us,” Placer coach Mark Lee said. “We did a pretty good job on Hale and we did a much better job in the third quarter blocking (Courage) out, but in the fourth quarter he hurt us.”