By John Goralski
Critics beware. Lincoln College men’s basketball is no laughing matter.
With wins over Springfield Tech and Bunker Hill Community College, the Wildcats are surging in the second half. The team has won four straight contests since returning from break. Their win streak has grown to six games, and it’s begun to attract national attention.
When NJCAA polls were released this Tuesday, Lincoln College of New England was ranked 14th in Division III. It’s the highest ranking in the program’s history, and that’s great news for a school without a gym.
“For the college, it’s a great thing,” said Beverly. “We’ve been trying to get our name out, and this definitely helps. We’re so appreciative because there are over 200 schools in our division. To be in the top 15 is incredible, but it really isn’t one of our goals. Obviously, any recognition is positive. It’s a great step forward, but as a staff we are only concerned about where we’ll end up at the end of the year.”
The week kicked off in Massachusetts in a toe-to-toe battle against Springfield Tech CC. The Wildcats capped the first half with a 78-73 win over the Rams on Dec. 10, and the rematch was just as close. Lincoln built a nine point lead at the half and held off a late run by the Rams.
Lance Hill paced Springfield with 14 points off the bench. Tim Putnam (12) and Tayquan Goodman (10) finished in double digits, and the Rams held Lincoln College guards to 0-6 shooting from three point range.
The Wildcats countered inside with their three forwards Kyre Jackson (11 points, 12 rebounds), Jalen David (11 points, 7 rebounds), and Jalen David (10 points, 7 rebounds). Kojo Lockhart added nine points. Dairyon Davis had seven points, and Boubacarr Bah added six.
“They really looked to get us off the three point line, and they played us really well defensively,” said Beverly. “They have some really good guards and really good post players. They really made us work, but it was a good game because we really had to fight for it.”
That’s been the drawback to the national ranking. Teams show up with their best efforts to try to topple the favorite. It’s a new role for the Wildcats, but they’ve embraced the challenge.
“We’re getting everybody’s best punch now, and we’ve been able to withstand it and come out on top,” said Beverly. “Everybody’s getting in, and everybody’s producing, so we’re really happy with the progress we’ve been making. It’s good to see the growth from all our players.”
On Saturday, Lincoln was forced to scramble for a site when a wrestling tournament pushed them out of the Bristol Eastern gym. They landed at Greene Hills Elementary School and came away with a 96-67 win over Bunker Hill CC.
The change in venue posed a challenge for Wildcat guards, but Beverly said he was pleased with the way his team responded to the undersized gym. David had another big game with 19 points. Jordan Taylor added 17 points and 10 boards. Jackson scored 10 points with 12 rebounds.
Chris Austin marshaled the offense with six assists. Michael Campbell (14) and Bah (10) scored double digits off the bench.
“We’re a bigger team, so we like to spread it out and spread it around so that our forwards can find the ability to work in isolated situations,” said the coach. “The smaller court kind of put some guys on top of each other, but we were able to compensate for that. It was condensed, so we were able to dish it down. When the double team came, we were able to make the quick kick out for open shots.”
Now, the Wildcats (14-5) will try to carry their momentum into this week with a road game against Quinsigamond CC and a home game against Holyoke Community College on Saturday. The Holyoke game is scheduled to tip off at 3 p.m. at Bristol Eastern High School.
Could this be the week that Lincoln finally cracks the Top 10?
“We try not to think about it. We’re kind of a blue collar team, and that’s one of the things that we pride ourselves on,” he said. “While we appreciate all the national attention, our overall goal isn’t just to be ranked over the year. We’re looking at the end result. Where will we be once it’s all said and done?”
By John Goralski