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Zebras not tossing in towel

By: Cecil Conley
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This season has not been kind to Lincoln High School’s boys basketball team. Coach Ben Palafox and his players have had to learn to live with losing, absorbing more than their fair share of lumps. At least they are not alone. Lincoln’s boys are 0-7 in the Pioneer Valley League after Wednesday night’s 67-52 loss to Center. Dan Hicks’ girls team is 0-6 in the PVL after Tuesday night’s 50-31 loss at home to Center. Misery certainly does love company, but Palafox would prefer not to describe this season as miserable. No longer does he measure his team by wins and losses. All he wants is for his players to care. They do. Palafox has 10 players who have endured one loss after another and watched a few of their teammates quit along the way. As long as those 10 come to compete, Palafox will do the same. The Zebras did just that Wednesday, leading 26-25 at halftime against a team that beat them by 51 points on Jan. 21. That was also evident last Friday night in the locker room after the Zebras’ 47-41 loss at Bear River. The Zebras trailed 38-25 after three quarters and then outscored the Bruins 16-9 in the fourth period. The players were upset after the game, Palafox said. They believed they could have and should have won. “We all had some tears,” Palafox said. “If (losing) still doesn’t hurt, that’s not a good sign. I know it hurt them.” Junior Travis Miskell led the Zebras with 14 points. Senior Christian Perkins added nine. All Palafox wants at this point is for his players’ efforts to pay off in one form or another. A victory would be nice, but Palafox will not turn blue by holding his breath in hopes of that happening. “No one’s going to give one to us,” he said. “If we’re not going to get a win, we’ve got to get that effort. That’s all we can ask. When the lights come on, they’re giving us what they’ve got.” Signs of progress are apparent. The Zebras took last Friday’s game down to the wire after losing by 17 points to Bear River in their PVL opener Jan. 18. If nothing else, Palafox takes pride in that. “We played good basketball against Bear River,” he said. “They’re not giving up. They’re all competitors. They won’t be here if they weren’t competitive. That says a lot about them. We’re getting better.” Palafox does not waste time thinking of what might have been had a few of his players not turned in their uniforms. He is playing the hand he has been dealt, with 10 players who refuse to fold. “We told them that if they wanted to get off the ship, we would understand,” he said. “This game is about life lessons. They’re learning they have to move on when they get knocked around. It’s not about getting knocked down. It’s about what you’re going to do after that.” Perkins and fellow Kevin Sigrist deserve credit, Palafox said, for rallying their teammates when needed. “They’ve had to take a little bit (of teasing at school), but they’ve got to have thick skin,” the coach said. “We’re all aware of what’s happening, and we’re doing the best we can.”