Just three weekends remain in the boys basketball regular season, and Lincoln is trending in the right direction with the postseason looming.
The Alices (8-9) are winners of six of their last eight, but they go for their first three-game winning streak of the season today when they visit Robinson, Ill., (8-14) for a 6:30 p.m. junior varsity start. It’s an unconventional two-game week for Lincoln (2-2 Big Eight) as it returns home Friday for its final Big Eight Conference game, hosting Boonville (7-10, 2-2) at 6:30 p.m.
Princeton downed Mount Vernon, 55-40, on Saturday, so the Tigers host Jasper next Tuesday for the last Big Eight crown. The Alices’ upset win over 3A honorable mention Washington last Friday took the Hatchets out of the mix, and also put Lincoln in position to finish in a three-way tie for second with the Hatchets and next Tuesday’s loser.
The 65-61 win over Washington was a signature victory for first-year Lincoln coach Jordan Myers, though the team was already showing plenty evidence of improvement. The Alices carried that momentum into Saturday’s 57-40 win over Pike Central.
“We’ve gotten more consistent, and the amount of time that we show lapses in our play has gone down,” Myers said. “We still continue to work on taking good shots, and we’ve gotten better. We’re guarding well, but at times we take some ill-advised risks, and we’re not as solid as we should be. But at this point in the year, you’re nitpicking at stuff to try and become the best version of yourself. We’re not playing bad at all, but we still want to be as good as we can be before the sectional comes around.”
Every rotation player has shown improvement for Lincoln, but most recently 5-11 junior guards Payton Curry and Noah Bushey have stepped up their scoring and are playing with more confidence.
“The game is slowing down for them a little bit, and they’re starting to hit some shots,” Myers said. “They’ve been doing things well for a while, but the scoring didn’t really come until the last few games. When you have more guys scoring, it obviously makes things better, and they’re starting to show that they can hit open shots. They play good defense too, and I’m pleased with how they’ve progressed from the beginning of the year to now.”
Curry (5.4 points per game) joins Lincoln’s regular starting lineup of 6-0 senior Torrence Gillis (13.2), 6-3 junior Ethan Bushey (10.9), 6-2 junior Julius Hardiman (8.2), and 5-6 junior E Smith (7.7), who matched a career-high with 17 points against the Hatchets. Noah Bushey is the sixth man and a defensive catalyst, typically drawing at least one charge per game.
Before Lincoln can close out its league schedule, it has a make-up game with Robinson, moved from last Tuesday due to the girls sectional game. The Maroons are led by a pair of seniors 6-3 Brayden Childress (17.6), and 5-8 Kade Lassen (14.3). Robinson plays one of the tougher schedules among Illinois teams in the area, but it was winless against five Indiana teams prior to heading to Terre Haute North on Tuesday.
Evansville Harrison owns tight wins against both teams, and Mount Carmel lost to Lincoln, 38-30, three days after defeating the Maroons, 51-41.
“They play a good mix of younger and older kids, and they’re used to playing Indiana schools. So it’s not going to be anything special for them with us coming over there,” Myers said.
“It’s another test. They’ve been in a lot of close games, and they lost three games in the Wabash Valley Classic (to Indiana schools) by a combined 11 points. They’re well-coached, and we’ll have to go over there and be ready to play, keep doing the same things we’ve been doing.”
Like Lincoln, the Pioneers can earn a tie for second in the league with a win Friday. While the Alices have a day to prepare in between games, being a conference foe, Myers has had an eye on Boonville all season.
The Pioneers are balanced with four averaging around 10 points per game, and they’re big with 6-6 senior Willie Rouch and 6-5 seniors Hunter Bruce and Nick Smith, the latter a University of Evansville baseball commit.
“We have a lot of common opponents. They’re big and physical, and they do a lot of stuff to play to their strengths,” Myers said. “There aren’t too many teams that can start three guys 6-5 or taller. Their coach has done some great things to put them in positions to win.
“It’s the last Big Eight Conference game, so it’d be a nice one to get.”
Boonville started the season 6-2 under first-year coach Austin Brooks, who guided Evansville Day to a sectional last season, but the Pioneers dropped their next six, which included Castle and Evansville schools Reitz, Mater Dei and Bosse.
Their last two losses were against Washington, 57-42, Jan. 31, and 3A No. 3 Heritage Hills, 75-45, last Thursday. But they did deal Jasper its only league defeat, 58-52, as part of their strong start.
Big Eight standings
Last Thursday's results
Lincoln 65, Washington 61
Barr-Reeve 54, Jasper 38
Heritage Hills 75, Boonville 45
Last Saturday's results
Lincoln 57, Pike Central 40
Heritage Hills 77, Jasper 45
Princeton 55, Mount Vernon 40
Evansville Mater Dei at Jasper (n)
Gibson Southern at Boonville (n)
Mount Carmel, Ill., at Mount Vernon (n)
Lincoln at Robinson, Ill.
Boonville at Lincoln
Bloomfield at Washington
Castle at Jasper
Evansville Mater Dei at Mount Vernon
Princeton at South Spencer