Back inside the same gym it suffered a heartbreaking championship game loss a year ago, Lincoln High School was on a mission all season to erase that memory.
Employing a 1-3-1 zone to slow down Marshall High School star Jason Smith, Lincoln put an exclamation on a historic run through the Academic Athletic Association and left no doubt on who the best team in the AAA is with a resounding 65-38 victory on Friday night at Kezar Pavilion.
The Mustangs held the Phoenix to 15 second-half, winning their first AAA-S.F. Section championship since 2002-03 and capping an undefeated run through league play — the first team to accomplish that feat since Lowell ran the table in 2005-06.
Five players scored in double-figures for Lincoln, led by senior center Seth Snoddy's 13 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.
“Coach just told me to stay poised because things were going to come to me,” Snoddy said. “I'm just happy we played as a team. Just knowing we're the best team in the AAA, going undefeated and winning the championship by 30, this feels really good.”
Although Lincoln didn't quite win by 30, this game wasn't all about Snoddy as the overall team performance was something coach Matt Jackson and Co. will be able to marvel about for years to come.
Just like in their semifinal win over Lowell, the Mustangs turned up the intensity in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. Senior guard Kylan Jones scored a quick seven points, senior Da'Vion Telfor got some easy buckets in transition and Lincoln went into the fourth with a 48-31 lead. Jemeil King hit a 3-pointer as the third quarter buzzer sounded.
“At halftime, we just stressed team ball,” Jackson said. “But the biggest thing is we got after it defensively. We earned every point, every rebound and every loose ball. I'm so proud of these guys.”
Marshall's leading scorer Smith was stymied all night against Lincoln's 1-3-1 zone. He finished with a team-high 13 points.
The Phoenix struggled out of the gate, falling behind 20-8 late in the first quarter. However, Smith helped kick-start an 8-0 run with a sweet finger roll that resulted into a three-point play on the first possession of the second quarter.
Then Smith and fellow senior guard Mizelle Parker hit back-to-back 3-pointers to bring Marshall to within one at 20-19.
But after leaving Lincoln a bit befuddled going into the locker room at halftime, the third quarter was a complete nightmare for Marshall. The Phoenix shot 23 percent in that fateful third quarter.
“We had a lot of problems with their 1-3-1 zone, even in the first half,” Marshall coach Dezebee Miles said. “My guys didn't quit on me, they tried, but I can't do nothing but compliment Lincoln tonight. They did what they had to do, and we just didn't have enough to overcome them.”
While both teams will receive automatic bids into next week's state playoffs, this season and this night belonged to Lincoln as it was finally able to erase the memories of last season's gut-wrenching title loss to Mission.
“This is a team that has so many weapons, that different guys are going to shine on different nights,” Jackson said. “Sometimes guys try to force and not let it come naturally, but tonight, it came naturally. Tonight was a special night, very special.”