By John Goralski
With four fouls, Kyre Jackson slipped between the ball and the basket and dug in his heels. There were two minutes left on the clock, but Jackson wasn’t worried about fouling out. He was just trying to draw a charge to keep the Wildcats in the game.
On Tuesday, Dec. 10, the Lincoln College New England basketball team needed one more victory to reach double digits by the end of the first semester, and everyone was doing his part.
“That was a huge charge,” said Wildcat coach Preston Beverly. “The mentality of most players with four fouls is to stay away from any contact or issues at all, but he took the charge. The officials called it, and everybody was just pumped.”
The charge sparked the Wildcats over the final two minutes, and Lincoln rallied for a 78-73 win over Springfield Tech.
Jackson led all players in points (26) and rebounds (7), but it was the charge he drew with four fouls that Beverly will remember the most.
“That’s an unselfish play, and that really shows that we have a bunch of unselfish guys that really buy into that team mentality,” said the coach. “Everybody has bought in to what we’re trying to do. We have no egos—on the coaching staff or with our players. We’ve even got great fans.”
The victory marked the 10th win for the Wildcats in the early season, and it’s the first time that a Lincoln team enters the break with 10 wins. At 10-5, the Wildcats are ranked second in the region. They’ve climbed up to 12th in the national rankings as the first semester comes to a close.
“We keep setting the record book, it seems, this season,” said Beverly. “We’re happy, but at the same time we’re not resting on our laurels.”
The victory didn’t come easily. Lincoln trailed by seven points at the half. Jackson ended up drawing his fifth foul. Two players ended with four, but the Wildcats managed to eke the victory.
Chris Austin finished with 23 points and six assists. Jalen David finished with six points, seven rebounds, and three steals. Lincoln out-rebounded Springfield Tech, 36-31, and shot 50 percent (6-for-12) from beyond the arc.
“That was a real test to our players’ will to win,” said Beverly. “Kyre ended up with 26. He went 4-for-5 from the three-point line, and he was in foul trouble the whole game. The team rallied behind him, and he really gave us some quality minutes.”
Now, the Wildcats will wait. Lincoln won’t resume play until Thursday, Jan. 16 with a road game at Ulster County CC. Then, the Wildcats will finally enjoy some home games. The team has enjoyed just three home contests in the first half, but will host seven of their last 12 games.
Beverly hopes that the break won’t spoil the team’s momentum. Lincoln has a history of posting winless records in January, but the coach expects that trend to end like so many others. Lincoln needs just two more victories to tie the program’s best, but Beverly has even higher expectations.
“We’re fighting for votes in the national rankings, so when we get back in January we have to get back to those things that got us where we are right now,” said Beverly. “We got through the first semester. We did really well, but we’re back to square one. We can’t just sit back.”
Could this be the team that makes a strong push in the postseason? We’ll have to wait to find out.