Despite both of its leading scorers dealing with foul trouble throughout most the game, a surprising switch to zone defense helped the Lincoln Southeast boys basketball team secure a gritty 69-66 home victory over Lincoln Northeast.
The physical nature of the game began immediately in the first quarter, as Southeast (9-5) reached the bonus before seven minutes had passed. McGinness Schneider scored nine first-quarter points and Ajantae Hogan began the second quarter by scoring 11 in three minutes to put Southeast up by eight.
Following his scoring outburst, Hogan picked up his third foul, putting him on the bench for the remainder of the first half. Southeast closed out the half in strong fashion nonetheless, taking a 40-34 lead into halftime as Northeast (7-8) failed to capitalize.
“We had guys stepping up into roles they don’t usually play in, but they got it done,” Southeast coach Jonah Bradley said.
After Hogan and Schneider combined for back-to-back baskets to put Southeast up 48-41 in the third quarter, both were called for their fourth foul in the span of 10 seconds. By the time Hogan and Schneider reentered the game, with 6:44 left in the fourth quarter, Northeast had tied the game at 53-53.
The Rockets had four players score in double figures, as Pierce Bazil (16 points), Carson Busch (15), Zander Beard (14) and Jake Bard (11) found success attacking Southeast in the lane.
Schneider fouled out of the game with four minutes remaining, exiting with 13 points and leaving Southeast without its point guard to close the game. With foul trouble mounting across the board, Bradley made the decision to switch to a zone defense, which helped hold Northeast to six points over five minutes of action.
“We jumped into a zone that we’ve never practiced and never done in a game and it bought us enough possessions to make it to the end,” Bradley said.
Southeast switched back to man-to-man defense during crunch time, and its defensive change succeeded once again. Jake Appleget took a key charge, allowing Southeast to maintain its slim lead, and Derek Branch forced a turnover on the next possession.
Branch came up big in crunch time, making 5-6 fourth-quarter free throws, while Hogan added two of his own to finish with 26 points and secure the eventual victory for Southeast.
“I haven’t been a part of a valiant effort like that in a long time and it was really fun to watch those guys take a big step toughness-wise,” Bradley said.
Lincoln Northeast girls 52, Lincoln Southeast 39
Lincoln Northeast (6-8) built a 14-point lead early in the second quarter before Lincoln Southeast (0-13) cut the deficit to five points in the fourth quarter. From that point on, the Rockets closed the game on a 14-6 run to secure the 52-39 victory. McKenna Minter scored 31 points as several Rockets fell into foul trouble early while Mackenzie Toomey scored 21 points to lead the Knights.
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