Down 52-49 with 3 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, all the pieces were in place for Lincoln High School to tie visiting Rodriguez of Fairfield.
Lincoln senior guard Ares Brown had an open look on the wing, appeared to be wide open and took a shot in perfect rhythm, but the ball never got to the rim.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Rodriguez junior forward Garry Wilson lept at Brown and blocked the potential tying shot to secure the three-point nonleague Rodriguez win on Monday at Lincoln High School.
“A lot of people underestimate him because of his size, but he’s a tremendous leaper,” Rodriguez coach Chris Toler said. “I have a couple of guys that seem to put themselves in a position to always get their hands on the ball, and he’s one.”
Brown finished with a team-high 14 points, but Lincoln (1-3) struggled with the high-pressure Rodriguez defense in the second half, committing 13 turnovers.
“We knew that they were going to be athletic, and that’s going to give us problems,” Lincoln coach Matt Jackson said. “We have to be smarter, but this is what the [nonleague] season is for. We know we’re going to see a team like this in Mission. They have a lot of the same type of guys.”
Lincoln trailed at the half, but used a 16-2 third-quarter run to build a 37-31 lead. Rodriguez (3-1) responded, however, with eight fourth-quarter points from Wilson, who also had a game-high 15 points.
Due to fatigue and to prevent standout Rodriguez guard Rae Jackson from penetrating, Lincoln went to a zone defense for much of the second half, but the Rodriguez role players rose to the occasion.
“In the last two or three games, we’ve been playing team ball,” Toler said. “We’re young, but we’re fast and we’re much faster when we move the ball. They’re all comfortable with being the guy.”
After settling for jump shots for most of the first half, shooting 25 percent from the field, Lincoln attacked the paint in the second, on drives from Brown and fellow senior guards Chris and Nick Young.
Chris was the most successful, getting to the basket and scored 13 points on 3-of-4 shooting in the second half after being held scoreless in the first.
“Between Chris, Ares and Nick, we have three guys who can drive at will,” Jackson said. “Once we get those guys going, we’ll be fine.”
As guard-heavy as Lincoln is, the key to its season may be getting 6-foot-7 sophomore center Douglas Snoddy and the Lincoln frontcourt involved. On Monday, Rodriguez out-muscled Lincoln at times for loose balls and rebounds.
“We have some big guys and we’re working on getting them all going together, so rebounding is a problem,” Jackson said. “[Snoddy] is a little wet behind the ears, but he’s showed great potential in our tournament last week. There’s a ton of upside for him.”