Dwayne (Tiny) Morton stood in front of the Lincoln bench with his arms folded, a disgusted look etched across his face.
It was an unfamiliar site to those who follow high school boys basketball. The Railsplitters were going home for good and there was nothing Morton could do about it.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the kids,” he insisted after third-seeded Wings Academy ended No. 6 Lincoln’s four-year reign atop the city with a dominant 78-59 victory at St. John’s University in the PSAL Class AA quarterfinals Sunday. “Most of the guys – only two or three guys were there last year – don’t know what they’re missing.”
Morton, however, does. With the help of Lance Stephenson and Sebastian Telfair, the top two scorers respectively in New York State history, he has led Lincoln to Madison Square Garden eight straight years. The last time the Railsplitters failed to make the semifinals was the 2000-01 season.
“The feeling is real bad,” said junior forward Michael White, who was on last year’s club. “We didn’t come here ready. The other team wanted it more than us.”
Lincoln (17-10) led 15-11 after one quarter, until foul trouble forced Morton to go to a smaller lineup. That played into the speedy Wings’ hands, The Wings (24-5) took a 31-24 lead into the break and took off from there, building an insurmountable double-figure lead.
“Second half, some of the guys just forced too much, mainly Shaq,” he said, referring to standout junior Shaquille Stokes. “I don’t think they did anything that was abnormal. We just didn’t do what we’re supposed to do.”
Stokes led Lincoln with 25 points, but 14 of those came in the fourth quarter, after the result had been decided. Reuben King added eight points, but all of those came in the first half. Power forward Kamari Murphy had 11 points and 10 rebounds, but he was soundly outplayed by Wings forwards Krystian Foriest and Del Lewis.
“Everything, from rebounding to shooting to hustle plays, they just outplayed us,” said Murphy who transferred from Bishop Ford before the start of the season. “For me, it’s kind of disappointing, but I know for coach and the guys that have been from the beginning, it’s worse. They’re used to being at the Garden and playing for the city championship.”
The Railsplitters left St. John’s with that old Brooklyn Dodgers adage: Wait ‘till next year.
They return their entire roster, outside of guard Raymond O’Loughlin. Isaiah Whitehead, one of the top eighth-graders in the city, is expected to be headed for Lincoln, in addition to whatever newcomers might stroll through the Coney Island’s school’s hallways.
“We’re not gonna put our heads down,” White said. “We’re gonna work harder and come back hungrier next year.”