Lincoln Railsplitters fight through the tears

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The death of assistant coach Jermaine Brown is still weighing heavy on the Abraham Lincoln boys’ basketball team.

Brown, 34, passed away last Saturday from a brain aneurysm after being hospitalized on Jan. 28. The team barely practiced over the past few days, with many of the players visiting the hospital and attending a candlelight vigil at the Farragut Houses in Brooklyn on Sunday.

Lincoln toughed out a 72–55 win over host Boys & Girls on Tuesday in its first game back since Brown’s passing. The players’ hearts and minds still haven’t returned to basketball.

“Everybody is still down and not very happy,” Railsplitters forward Desi Rodriguez said. “We have to play through it. I know he wants us to be strong for him. That what we are going to do.”

Brown was a fixture in the local basketball community and worked with both the Juice All-Stars and New Heights AAU travel ball organizations. Rodriguez, who is headed to Seton Hall, described Brown as more than a coach, but also a friend who looked out for neighborhood kids.

Brown, who coached Lincoln All-American Isaiah Whitehead since junior high, tried to help kids work for a better life through basketball. The Lincoln players wrote “RIP Maine” on their sneakers and have dedicated their season to him.

“When he is coaching you, he’s on top of you,” Whitehead said. “When he is off the court, he’s like your best friend.”

Lincoln coach Dwayne ‘Tiny” Morton said this is the first day he has really been around the team since its win over South Shore on Jan. 31. He wants to see Brown remembered as an unselfish man who gave all he could to the kids and the community. Boys & Girls asked for a round of applause from the crowd to remember Brown’s life.

The basketball season, however, moves on.

Lincoln (19–1, 15–0) alternated between being sluggish and impressive. It did not press, and the starters were kept on the floor the majority of the game against the rival Kangaroos (6–8).

Whitehead led all scorers with 25 points, including four three-pointers. Rodriguez tallied 24 points and St. Peter’s commit Elisha Boone added 20 for Lincoln. Benjamin Osakioduwa paced Boys & Girls with 13 points and Ulysse Shaleik chipped in nine.

Lincoln built an 11-point lead early in the third quarter. Boys & Girls stormed back and pulled within 42–35 with 3:45 remaining in the frame, but the Seton Hall-bound Whitehead answered with a three-pointer from the right corner and the Kangaroos never got closer.

“He is showing the reason why he is an All-American.” Rodriguez said. “When we need a big shot, Isaiah always comes through.”

It was a performance that would have made Brown proud.

Funeral services for Jermaine Brown will be 4–7 pm on Feb. 7 at The Church Of The Open Door, 201 Gold Street between Nassau and Sands streets, followed by a reception at Farragut Community Center at 228 York Street between Gold and Navy streets.

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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