Lincoln tops Boyle in district final

By Mike Marsee
Contributing Writer

Once the Lincoln County Patriots got rolling, they were hard to stop.

That was true during the regular season, and it was true Wednesday night as Lincoln captured its third consecutive 45th District championship.

The Patriots started slowly but recovered quickly and controlled most of the final three periods to defeat Boyle County 62-57 in the finals of the boys 45th District Tournament.

It was a microcosm of the season for a team that has had its ups and downs — as it did in this game — but has been trending in the right direction in this most unusual season.

“It’s been an interesting year … and our district is really, really good every year, and this year’s no different,” Lincoln coach Jeff Jackson said. “We’ve continued to try to work hard and stay focused and get better, and we’ve tried to improve what we want to do on both ends of the floor.”

The second half of the season has been much better than the first for Lincoln (14-6), which won seven of its last eight regular-season games after a 5-5 start that included a 13-day layoff in January due to COVID-19 protocols.

Lincoln (14-6) lost both of its regular-season games against Boyle (18-4) and fell behind by 10 points in the first quarter Wednesday. But the Patriots caught fire at the end of the first period, went in front near the middle of the second and never allowed the Rebels to regain the lead.

“It feels good,” Lincoln guard Tramane Alcorn said. “We lost to them twice in the regular season, so this was really big for us to come out and get this win.”

Boyle won the two regular-season meetings by 10 and 16 points, but the Rebels couldn’t recreate the success they had in the opening moments of this game.

“They did what they needed to do better than we did what we needed to do tonight. That’s just what it comes down to. They made a couple more plays than we did, so hats off to them,” Boyle coach Dennie Webb said. “But I can’t fault the kids’ effort. They battled, they had a chance. A couple shots here and there, a couple of close plays or turnovers, and we’re right there.”

After winning at Boyle, Lincoln will return to its own gym for the 12th Region Tournament, which begins Saturday. Boyle also advances to the regional as the district runner-up.

But the Patriots were the ones wearing the smiles Wednesday night after winning their seventh district title in eight years and their 10th in Jackson’s 18 seasons as coach.

“It’s just a good team win,” Jackson said. “I’m really proud of our kids and our team.”

Lincoln was seeded third in this tournament after going 5-3 in regular-season district play and became the first team seeded third or lower to win the 45th District since Boyle won as a No. 3 seed in 2012.

The Patriots led top-seeded Boyle 52-44 before the Rebels cut the margin to two points with 1:45 remaining. They finished the job at the free-throw line, where Alcorn, a 53 percent shooter, went 6 for 6 and the team went 10 for 10 in the final 1:30.

Alcorn and Jaxon Smith scored 17 points each to lead four Patriots in double figures. Both Alcorn (9 for 11) and Smith (9 for 12) scored more than half of their points at the line, where Lincoln was 24 for 30.

The way the Patriots finished the game was a far cry from the way they started it, when they missed their first six shots from the field and fell behind 9-0. It was 13-3 before Lincoln got going with a 10-1 run that carried into the second quarter.

“We had some pretty good looks (early) that didn’t go in the basket, and they really got on the glass hard and we didn’t do a very good job of keeping them out of the lane and blocking out,” Jackson said. “From the second quarter on we did a better job defensively of keeping them in front of us and a better job of rebounding, and we moved the ball well.”

Boyle hit five of its first seven shots from the field but was just 2 for 10 over the balance of the first half, and Alcorn said it was defense that stopped the Rebels’ roll and lit a fire under the Patriots.
“We just dropped our tails and defended,” he said.

Webb said Lincoln’s defense got better as its offense got better.

“Our first few possessions when we got up it was mostly in transition,” the Boyle coach said. “When they start making shots, it lets them get that zone set up. It just kind of slowed us down and took us a little bit out of what we were trying to get done.”

Lincoln outscored Boyle 25-9 over the final 10 minutes of the first half. Colton Ralston sank a 3-point shot to put the Patriots ahead for good at 25-22 with 1:21 left, then hit another just before halftime to give them a six-point lead.
Lincoln took its largest lead at 39-27 in the third quarter and was still up by eight before Boyle’s Hagan Webb got a three-point play and a 3-point basket on consecutive trips to pull the Rebels within 52-50.

Webb and Owen Barnes led Boyle with 13 points each, and Barnes had eight rebounds. Luke Imfeld added 12 points for the Rebels, who will look to bounce back in the regional.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Webb said. “All eight teams in that thing Saturday are going to have a chance. We’ll rally back. We’ve got resilient kids, and we’ll see if we can’t make a little noise over there Saturday.”

Lincoln is patient on offense as a rule, and it protected its lead in the second half in part by protecting the ball.

“It helps us a lot. We can slow the clock down when we’ve got a lead,” Alcorn said.

The Patriots committed only two turnovers after halftime and five overall, and they frequently moved the ball effectively around the perimeter in search of good shots.

“I thought we moved the ball well and shared the ball and got the ball where we wanted to try to get it to spread them out a little bit defensively,” Jackson said. “We’re trying to get better (at) taking care of the ball and having good shot selection down the stretch.”

All-tournament team
Tramane Alcorn, Lincoln County; Owen Barnes, Boyle County; Titus Boyd, Danville Christian; Ethan Cooper, Garrard County; Channing Ford, Danville; Jagger Gillis, Boyle County; Colton Ralston, Lincoln County; Jaxon Smith, Lincoln County.