It took just 3:01 for Lance Stephenson to wow the capacity crowd. Two layups, a left-handed runner and foul, a deep 3-pointer from the left wing and one-handed slam followed by trash talk propped Lincoln up early, 12-4, over Boys & Girls.
“I was trying to hype up my team,” he said.
It looked to be the Stephenson show in Bedford Stuyvesant. And it was for a while – he did score a game-high 37 points, overpowering the smaller Kangaroos in the paint and dazzling them from the perimeter.
But by the end of the evening, his head was down, his shoulders slumped as Boys had the final retort, a 71-61 win, the Brooklyn school’s third home win over Stephenson in as many years, one that moved them atop Brooklyn AA for the time being.
“They just played harder than us,” Stephenson said.
The 6-foot-6 senior didn’t get much help from his supporting cast. Senior power forward James Padgett was the only other Railsplitter to finish in double figures, scoring 12 points. Senior guard Darwin (Buddha) Ellis didn’t register a basket, still smarting from a broken left pinkie finger that has effected his shot.
In his first game back from a school-mandated five-game suspension for disciplinary reasons, sophomore Shaquille Stokes scored eight points, but was blanked in the second half.
“Nobody,” Lincoln coach Dwayne (Tiny) Morton said, “could make plays but Lance.”
Stephenson’s early outburst may have worked against him. In previous games, he has looked to get others involved. In an 87-83 win over Thomas Jefferson Dec. 18, guards Raymond Oloughlin and Anthony Allen took advantage of the Orange Wave’s repeated double teams, sinking open jumpers. The two combined for 43 points that day, but rarely looked for their shot against Boys & Girls, finishing with matching donuts. There were moments Stephenson looked off open teammates, taking on double teams on his own.
Stephenson said his team wasn’t able to adjust to the hostile environment. School safety officers were stationed at all points of the gymnasium. The Kangaroos band strummed tunes behind the basket, there were taunts from the crowd and cheerleaders chants. Plus, there were television cameras everywhere; it is MSG Network’s Game of the Week, set to be televised Sunday morning.
“It’s not easy to win here,” Morton said.
“We got a lot of new guys,” Stephenson added. “They’re learning and they aren’t used to stuff like this.”
Stephenson lamented the setback, since one of his goals was to go undefeated in league play. Each of the last two years Lincoln lost similar contests to Boys & Girls, yet rebounded to win the Brooklyn crown and city championship. For now, they are tied with Jefferson in second place in Brooklyn AA, having lost three of five dating back to the City of Palms Holiday Classic (Fort Myers, Fla.).
“This motivates us,” Stephenson said. “We’re going to take it out on them (Feb. 5, when the game is in Coney Island). We’re going to try to win every game the rest of the year.”