The drama produced in Friday night's Academic Athletic Association showdown between the Lincoln High School and Lowell boys' basketball teams had spectators leaving the game salivating about a potential matchup between these two teams in the playoffs.
In front of a packed gym and an even more electric crowd, Lincoln (9-8, 2-0) squeaked by the host Cardinals in a 51-46 thriller in the second league game for both schools.
Mustangs senior guard Da'vion Telfor – who was recently was named the AAA running back of the year — came up with a steal at half court with 21.5 seconds left, and converted it into a three-point play as he was fouled on the layup to give Lincoln a 48-45 lead.
“The athleticism and size came through for us in the end,” said Lincoln head coach Matt Jackson. “We're still figuring out who we are, and what our place will be in this league.”
Although that ultimately was the difference in the game, the Mustangs' victory didn't come without some tumultuous moments in the final 13 seconds, which saw the teams combine for turnovers committed within three seconds.
Down 49-46, Lowell turned it over on the inbounds play, but after getting possession with a chance to ice the game, Lincoln handed the ball right back to the Cardinals with a turnover of its own.
However, with 9.3 seconds left in regulation with a chance to tie, Lowell again turned it over as Lincoln stole a pass. Mustangs forward Seth Snoddy knocked down two free throws to seal it for Lincoln.
“We made a lot mistakes, a lot of turnovers,” said Lowell head coach Rob Ray. “I think it's just not us executing and it would have been great to win this game, but we can take a lot of positives from it.”
The see-saw battle started with Lowell scoring the first six points of the game. Despite being the more efficient team in the first half, the Cardinals found themselves only up 22-21 at halftime due to having no answer for 6-foot-3 junior guard Tarrez Blaylock.
While the rest of the Mustangs struggled to find their rhythm, Blaylock — who scored a game-high 21 points — had his way penetrating and scoring with floaters in the lane, or showing his range with two 3-pointers.
“He's a great shooter,” Jackson said of Blaylock. “He can do a lot of things offensively, gets his shot whenever he wants to. He came up big when we needed him to.”
Lowell (9-6, 1-1) never wavered as senior guard Sammy Pollard led the Cardinals with 17 points and carried the Cardinals on his back in the third quarter, scoring all of the team's eight points, including a wicked crossover move he put on Blaylock with 4:25 left in the third frame, and tying the game at 27-27 while sending the Lowell faithful into a frenzy.
On three different occasions in the fourth quarter with Lincoln holding a slim four-point lead, Lowell rallied to tie it before finally taking a 45-44 lead with 50 seconds left on junior Soren Carpenter's jumper at the top of the key. That was the last lead of the night for the Cardinals, however.
“The guys fought hard and we haven't been in too many intense games like this was,” Ray said. “Preseason is preseason and it doesn't matter if you're playing in tournaments or not, it's nothing like the AAA. It was fun, educational, and we'll move forward and learn from this game.”