For Lincoln (23-8) — the AAA regular-season champion — it has been chasing this moment all season long. A year ago, the Mustangs lost to Mission in the AAA title game 78-71 in triple-overtime. That loss has fueled Lincoln in league play this season.
Behind the play of seniors Da’Vion Telfor and Seth Snoddy, Lincoln walked off the court with a victory in every game it played against a AAA foe this season. But in the title game against Marshall — where Lincoln is trying to capture its first title since 2002-03 — Mustangs coach Matt Jackson and Co. know if they don’t slow down Marshall point guard Jason Smith, they’ll likely be leaving Kezar Pavilion discouraged.
Smith is averaging 27 points a game this season for Marshall while adding six assists and more than five rebounds per game.
“We’ve got to stop Jason Smith,” Jackson said. “He’s a great player and probably the best guard in our league.”
Marshall’s journey has been tumultuous, where the Phoenix opened the season with six consecutive nonleague losses, and they had to forfeit another four games due to not having enough players eligible because of academics.
However, with Smith, fellow senior Mizell Parker and 6-foot-4 brothers Ibraheem (junior) and Ishaaq Muhammed (sophomore), who transferred from McClymonds High School in Oakland, Marshall has been on a roll. The Phoenix went 12-2 in the AAA regular season as they were able to add players when the winter report cards came out. They now have the chance to win the AAA boys’ basketball championship for the first time in school history.
“The players have been putting extra hard work in, and they’ve set some goals and followed up on those goals,” Marshall coach Dezebee Miles said. “Once we were able to get this team together, we’ve been able to win some games, build some confidence and keep moving forward.”
In the regular season game between the schools on Jan. 15, Lincoln rolled to a 47-31 victory as the Mustangs didn’t allow Marshall to score more than six points in each of the last three periods.
“We weren’t ready to play a team of that caliber and it was one of our worst performances of the season,” Miles said. “We’re going to have to work through their zone, and we’re going to have to rebound and not allow them to get second and third opportunities offensively.”
Lincoln is looking to not only beat Marshall, they’re looking to make some noise in the state playoffs next week and gain respect for the AAA.
“We were pretty successful making [Marshall] play half-court offense in the last meeting, and we hope we can limit them again,” Jackson said. “We want to be greater than the AAA. When we attack and share the ball, we feel we can play with anybody.”