Abraham Lincoln made it clear that it has the best squad in the city last Sunday, with one of its most famous alums in attendance.
“We kind of figured that everybody heard of us, but they never experienced us,” Seton Hall-bound guard Isaiah Whitehead said.
Former Railsplitters star and Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson got to see the team grab an impressive 90–71 victory over Thomas Jefferson in the Public School Athletic League Brooklyn boys’ basketball final at City College. Stephenson was also at the team’s semifinal game and spent a few days watching practice.
“We huddled [Saturday] and he said, ‘Great teams win big games.’ ” Whitehead said. “Today is a big game and we won.”
Railsplitters coach Dwayne “Tiny” Morton feels it was important for his players to get to hear from Stephenson, a four-time city champion, with the playoffs on the horizon. He talked about the physicality of postseason games.
“Everybody needs that,” Morton said. “Somebody from the outside, somebody who has been there that knows the program. They will definitely listen to a guy like him.”
The visit from Stephenson was only a small piece of the Railsplitters’ motivation coming into the game. Orange Wave coach Lawrence “Bud” Pollard boasted of a guaranteed victory. That prompted Morton to show up in an Iron Mike Tyson sweatshirt to signify who the undisputed champ was.
“Everyone wants to beat us,” said St. Peter’s commit Elisha Boone. “Every time we play we have say that we are the best in the city, the best in the state, and that we are one of the top teams in the country.”
He and his teammates took out their frustrations by starting the game on an 18–0 run before Jefferson even got going. The Railsplitters (24–3) — ranked No. 20 in the country by USA Today — were up 24–9 after the first quarter and 46–25 at the half.
Desi Rodriguez scored 24 points. Whitehead tallied 22 and Boone added 21. Daquise Andrews paced Jefferson (18–9) with 21 points and Shamorie Ponds had 16. Patrick Bryant chipped in 15.
Morton knew his team was ready to go.
“I didn’t know we are going to start like that, but I knew we were going to be ready.” he said.
Jefferson did get back into the game with Lincoln subbing and losing focus on defense. The Railspitters lead went down to just nine several times in the third and fourth quarter, the last coming at 72–63 with 4:08 remaining in the game. Lincoln went on to blow the game open late.
The victory locks up the top seed for the defending city champions in the upcoming city playoffs. Lincoln enjoyed this win, but has its eyes on even bigger ones moving forward.
“We are very good,” Whitehead said. “We still have a couple of games left to be the best in the city.”