Snow, quarantines have hindered Lincoln's improvement
February is the shortest month on the calendar, but it can't get over soon enough for Lincoln's boys basketball team.
Wins have been difficult to come by for the Alices all season, but the bad season began to show glimpses of hope at the end of January. February had other plans.
A 14-day quarantine to start the month coupled with multiple snow storms the past two weeks have limited Lincoln to two practices. The team won't have much more prep time in the gym over the next 10 days as the regular season winds down.
The Alices (1-13, 0-6 SIAC) play at Evansville Memorial (7-8, 0-5) at 6:30 p.m. today and host Evansville North (12-6, 5-1) Saturday for a 5 p.m. junior varsity start, both Southern Indiana Athletic Conference games. The season wraps up with a home game against SIAC foe Jasper (5-14, 1-7) at 6 p.m. next Tuesday and a 6 p.m. road game at Pike Central (2-15) next Thursday.
This weekend's games have been adjusted Thursday, and could still change. The other Knox County schools postponed their games today. As of press time, Lincoln planned to play today, but athletic director Mike Quinn said a final decision would be made this morning.
Saturday is also a schedule adjustment, as the Alices were slated to host Northview. But the game with North was postponed due to snow Tuesday, and since the Huskies are in contention for the SIAC crown, making up that game takes priority.
Given Lincoln's lack of court time, the opponents aren't that important right now. The Alices are more focused on getting back to the form they showed glimpses of in late January when they played a stellar first half against Evansville Harrison (a 59-52 loss) and an impressive second half against Evansville Bosse (a 79-58 loss) in which they whittled a 31-point halftime margin to 13.
Lincoln's top seven varsity guys got a brief practice in after coming out of quarantine last Saturday prior to a 63-47 loss to Mount Vernon, and they practiced again Monday. But that's been it for the entire month.
“I can only imagine what our guys are going through. I'm going a little stir crazy, and they probably are too,” Lincoln coach Jordan Myers said. “But it's completely out of our control. There's nothing you can do about it. It's just been one of those years. We're making the best out of it that we possibly can.
“We're going to keep (practices) as much about ourselves as we possibly can. Every chance we have in the gym is time we have to maximize. Until we get to the sectional, we'll probably take (opponent preparation) on a day-of-game basis. The time we get on the floor is so much more valuable at this point, having lost so much.”
Lincoln's seniors are 6-3 Ethan Bushey (15.2 points per game), 6-2 Julius Hardiman (7.3), 5-11 Payton Curry (7.0), 5-7 E Smith (5.5), 5-10 Noah Bushey (3.2) and 6-4 Cooper Thorne (2.8). Juniors are 5-11 Simon Corrona (4.9) and 6-0 Coleton Pfoff, and 5-10 sophomore Luke Tolliver (3.2) rounds out the normal Lincoln regulars. Thorne and Pfoff were the only ones that avoided the quarantine, and 5-8 freshman Xander Hunt (6.3) and 5-10 sophomore Zach Steffey (2.6) have stepped up in the absence of the regulars.
Hunt and Steffey have scored all of their combined 32 points in the last two games, and Tolliver has buried a pair of 3s in each of his last three games.
“Those guys are slowly but surely gaining more confidence, and I give our seniors a lot of credit,” Myers said. “They've brought them along and taken them under their wing as best they can. The seniors haven't quit. They come to practice, and they compete all the way through. They know this year hasn't gone how they wanted, but every day they come in and fight.
"They're showing our young kids what it takes and instilling that work ethic and toughness. We're starting to see that in our younger guys. When they get in games, they're not afraid of the moment, and they're starting to play with confidence.”
Based on their records, Memorial, Jasper and Pike Central are good opportunities for Lincoln to add to the win column. North is the most difficult foe, and with much still up in the air, the Huskies are very much alive in the SIAC title chase.
North has three double-figure scorers in 6-4 senior Chandler Moore (18.4), 6-1 junior Ryan Caddell (15.7) and 6-3 junior Cameron Gelhausen. Memorial has four double-figure scorers, paced by 6-1 senior Justin Waiz (14.5), while 5-9 junior Isaac Day (10.8) leads the Wildcats, and 5-9 freshman Julian Gish has emerged for the Chargers.
Myers is hopeful his team can finish on a high note.
“Somewhere down the line, they'll look back on this year and go, 'man, that taught us a lot,'” Myers said. “Going through it isn't easy. I'm sure they're frustrated, and I've been frustrated at times. But you have to try to make a positive out of every situation. Hopefully the can draw from it moving forward. Life is going to throw you curveballs, and you have to be ready to deal with it. I give our guys credit. They've done that.
“It's been cool from my perspective to watch them handle this all with such class and integrity. That's just character, and this is a tough group of kids. That's been special for me.”
Evansville Mater Dei|3-4|9-8
Last Friday's result
Castle 65, Jasper 38
Last Saturday's results
Mount Vernon 63, Lincoln 47
Bosse 62, Mater Dei 56
North 63, Central 59
Henderson County (Ky.) 63, Bosse 58
Owensboro County (Ky.) 59, Reitz 53
Lincoln at Memorial
Harrison at Bosse
Jeffersonville at Jasper
North at Lincoln
Central at New Albany
Memorial at Castle
Reitz at Harrison
Bloomington South at Central
Jasper at Lincoln
Mater Dei at Central
Memorial at North
Reitz at Castle
Mount Vernon at Bosse