By John Goralski
Nobody gave Lincoln College a chance against Massassoit because you just can’t teach height in basketball.
On Saturday, Jan. 26, the upper division junior college team shuffled six footers in an out of their lineup with like cards in a poker game while 7 foot, 2 inch center Andrew McCarthy protected the net like a soccer goalie.
Their roster reads like the United Nations with players recruited from Greece, Croatia, and Montenegro, but with 19 minutes left, Lincoln led by six. At nine minutes, the Wildcats led by two, and with two seconds remaining, they still had a chance to win.
“It came down to just one possession down the end, and we gave them three chances,” said Lincoln coach John Wasielewski. “Just like Dean College, they are a division above us in the NJCAA, so we’re not even supposed to be in this game. It’s a real testament to what these guys have been doing all week. They’re really working hard.”
Massassoit held on for a 77-76 victory, but Lincoln matched them toe-to-toe. Mat Correa had 21 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals, and 5 assists. Tylon Holmes (5 rebounds, 3 steals) and Sean Douglas scored 12 points apiece, and Kevin Smith (11 points), Howell McFarlane, and Charles Davis had five rebounds apiece.
“Our record doesn’t show it, but I don’t know how many times this season coaches have told me that they are worried about playing us,” said the coach. “I love hearing that. I don’t think that our guys fully have a grasp on it, but I think they’re starting to get it. I think we can compete with anybody.”
The game came on the heels of a 70-65 win over Gateway on Friday in a division matchup that coaches called a landmark victory.
Holmes paved the way with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Smith had 13 points with eight boards, and Douglas scored 10 points with 13 rebounds. Lincoln trailed by six at the half, but out-scored Gateway, 40-29, in the second half.
It was the first time in program history that the Wildcats have bested the Lions, and it was a game that carries postseason implications. Lincoln is 5-10 overall, but the 4-5 record in division play is all that matters for the postseason.
“We had a game plan. Our defense was just fantastic, but that’s something we’ve been working on,” said Wasielewski. “We played two in arow, and we wanted to go in guns blazing. Whatever we do, we do. As long as we work hard, that’s all I want to see.”
Even a division loss to Quinsigamond at the start of the week couldn’t damper the coach’s excitement. Douglas scored 17 points in the loss. McFarlane added 11, and Holmes scored 10 with six steals and 7 boards.
Wasielewski said that, with that intensity, his team has a good chance of returning to the postseason.
“That’s why the Gateway win was so big,” he said. “We have a huge game against Springfield coming up, and it’s pretty much a three-team race for those last two spots…It’s just like very season. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and we’re not going to know where we’re going to end up until February”