Rebounding edge helps Mission top Lincoln to hold on to first in Lang

Mission High School’s boys’ basketball team may look almost entirely different from last season’s Academic Athletic Association championship team, but the Bears are still right where they need to be — in first place.
With a 62-47 win over visiting Lincoln, the Bears (17-9, 11-1) stay atop the AAA’s Lang Division, tied with Washington, with four games to play.

“It’s a good win, and we had to have it because it’s in our division,” Mission coach Arnold Zelaya said. “To be honest, though, I’m still not happy [with how we’re playing]. We’re still not where we need to be.”

Zelaya’s frustrations were at their peak after the first quarter, when Lincoln (16-11, 9-3) took a 16-9 lead and Mission went scoreless in the final three minutes of play, but the Bears steadily out-scored the Mustangs in every following quarter to pull away.

The Bears took a 26-24 lead into the half, but it was a dominating rebounding performance by the Mission frontcourt that put the game away.

Mission forwards Gione Edwards, Shaquille Fisher and Alec Tatum dominated the offensive boards, giving the Bears second, third and sometimes fourth chances on several possessions.

“Their size really showed, and we really couldn’t rebound the ball defensively,” Lincoln interim coach Matt Jackson said. “You have to rebound on the road, especially against these guys.

“They’re long and athletic and we just have to rebound the basketball.”

While the Mission forwards were controlling the glass, the smallest player on the court, Mission senior Jaleel Stancil, provided a constant spark in the second half.

After being held scoreless in the first half, Stancil had 12 points in the second half.

“We always need senior leadership,” Zelaya said. “He’s the smallest guy on the team, but he’s got the biggest heart. He’s been with me for four years and he knows what I expect from him, so I’m going to lean on him.”

Even though the Lincoln offense limped down the stretch, 6-foot-5 senior center Kevork Demirjian was a scoring threat throughout, finishing with a game-high 18 points, including 10 in the first quarter on 4-of-4 shooting from the floor.

“We ask a lot out of him, because he’s our one true big man,” Jackson said. “But when you’re going up against three or four guys [that size], it’s tough.”

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