Even after Abraham Lincoln star Isaiah Whitehead was benched with foul trouble, the Railsplitters’ lead kept growing.
The Seton Hall-bound Whitehead carried his team in the first half of the game, and his teammates returned the favor through much of the third quarter after he fouled out. Fellow seniors Desi Rodriguez and Anthony Williams had strong second-half performances to power host Lincoln to a comfortable 96–73 win over Brooklyn Collegiate in Public School Athletic League boys’ basketball Saturday afternoon. The teams were tied at 37–37 at the half.
“Anyone can participate in our wins,” Williams said. “That’s what we did — pass the ball around [for] open shots.”
Rodriguez scored a game-high 27 points and Whitehead had 18 of his 26 points in the first half. Williams added 20 points. It was Williams though that Lincoln coach Dwayne “Tiny” Morton was really hoping to get going. He felt his team settled for too many jump shots in the first half and needed Williams to penetrate the lane and create open looks for his teammates.
“Sometimes he gets use to sitting in the background of Isaiah,” the coach said. “They have been playing together so long. There are a lot of moments in the game he’s got to step up.”
Williams didn’t disappoint after Whitehead went to the bench thanks to a third foul in the third quarter. He made sure the ball moved as the Railspitters (3–0) ripped off a 18–4 run to take a 60–44 lead with 1:47 to go in the frame.
Rodriguez got it started with a three-pointer and added a monstrous dunk off an inbounds play. Williams knocked down a few jumpers and finished the spurt with a driving layup and a quick steal and score off the press. David Ivanov added six points during the run.
“When we pass the ball we look better,” Williams said.
Brooklyn Collegiate (2–1) never found an answer. Shooting 26 of 49 from the free throw line didn’t help. The Lions, considered a city tittle contender, was playing without star Jahlil Tripp. The junior was shot in the leg earlier this month and isn’t expected back until January. Brooklyn Collegiate coach Jacob Edwards said Tripp’s leadership was missed.
“One they made that run we stumbled trying to get it all back at once,” he said. “That’ where we missed Jahlil. Jahlil usually settles us down and makes sure we get some good shots.
The Lions hung tough in the first half and led 27–22 after a 3-pointer by Rashaad John (13 points) midway through the second quarter. Willie Barnes added 13 points and Davere Creighton had 10.
Whitehead, who left quickly after the game because of the death of his aunt, scored Lincoln’s first 12 points of the second quarter. He brought the Railsplitters back, but his teammates weren’t happy with their performance overall.
“It was kind of sluggish in the first half,” Rodriguez said. “We know we can play better than that.”
He can his teammates didn’t want to miss a chance to claim their turf as defending city champions and certainly did so. A game billed as a matchup between two of the league’s best team’s became a Lincoln dunking display in its final minutes.
“It was definitely one of our first chances to make a statement,” Rodriguez said. “They were undefeated just like us. They thought that they had us.”