On Friday night, Lincoln High played host to Omaha Westside on senior night and the Links sent their seniors out the right way with a 72-63 win.
The first half was close throughout until Lincoln High closed the first half on a 9-0 run to take a 29-20 lead into halftime. Westside made a run in the third quarter to pull within three at 42-39 heading into the fourth.
Lincoln High scored first in the fourth quarter and the Warriors got no closer than four the rest of the way. The Links took their first double-digit lead of the game at 52-41 thanks to a 7-0 run and hit enough free throws to close out the game despite Westside hitting a few shots down the stretch and fouling to extend the game.
Here are five thoughts on the game.
Jenkins’ Improvement Key for Links
Lincoln High senior Keyshawn Jenkins is one of the most improved players in the state and he’s the biggest reason the Links will have a chance to improve on last season’s 13 wins with a good postseason showing. Lincoln High went 13-12 last season and are sitting at 13-9 after Friday’s win.
Jenkins has always been a special athlete, but his skill level and consistency has come a long way from las season. He’s nearly doubled his scoring averaging and is almost at 16 points per game, his 3-point percentage has jumped from 33 percent to 47 percent and he’s improved his assists average from 0.9 to 2.4.
Jenkins showed up all over the court on Friday night, putting up 18 points on 7-of-11 from the field, 1-of-2 from 3 and 3-of-4 from the free-throw line with eight rebounds, four blocks, two assists and a steal.
Jenkins had four points in the first quarter, seven in the second (the last seven points of the half) and seven in the fourth. He didn’t score in the third but set up one teammate for a dunk and another for a 3-pointer then took a charge, allowing Lincoln High to stretch its lead back out to nine.
Thompson Shoulders the Load
This was the sixth time I’ve seen Westside play this season, and Thompson has come up big in every one of them. I’ve written about him a couple of times already and I have to do so once again.
Thompson led all scorers with 24 points and added seven boards, two assists and a block. He scored on the block, off the dribble, from the free-throw line and from the 3-point line, showing off his whole arsenal.
Thompson led the Warriors with seven points in the first half then exploded in the third quarter, accounting for 15 of Westside’s 19 points. The Links took control for good when they sent more defensive attention Thompson’s way and held him to 1-of-6 shooting, then he fouled out with 2:39 to play.
Westside’s second-leading scorer, Jadin Booth, never found a rhythm and scored just four points in the first three quarters combined before finishing with 11. Without Thompson, Westside wouldn’t have gotten run out of the gym.
Perhaps part of Booth’s struggles was the athleticism Lincoln high was able to roll out there. He didn’t get many open looks on the perimeter (0-of-2 from deep) and had a tough time getting past his defenders in the halfcourt.
Senior Zay Parks got the start with senior forward Graham Newton in street clothes and was the primary defender on Booth, and he was glued to him all game. Senior Jaden Horton, one of the better wide receivers in the state on the gridiron, showed off his athleticism on the basketball court with a team-high 22 points on 7-of-13 from the field and 7-of-9 from the line with eight rebounds, two steals and a block.
I mentioned Jenkins above, and he made a handful of jaw-dropping plays with his athleticism including a couple of mid-air put-backs and an alley-ooo lay-in off a baseline out-of-bounds play, and two of his blocks were on 3-pointers.
The Links dominated the glass 43 to 24 including 12 to five on the offensive end and seven of Westside’s 10 turnovers were via Lincoln High steals.
Lincoln High has had ball security issues all season, averaging 17.1 turnovers per game, but when the Links take care of the ball they have the length and athleticism to compete with anyone.
Omaha Westside opened in the 2-3 zone that the Warriors have used throughout this season, and it helped them jump out to a 6-2 lead early. Lincoln High isn’t a particularly good perimeter shooting team, so zoning them is a logical strategy. The Links only shot 2-of-11 from 3 for the game.
Even so, Lincoln High started to figure it out and tied it up a few times down the stretch of the first quarter. Westside switched back and forth between the zone and man throughout the game but thanks in part to the athleticism mentioned above, the Links were able to beat the zone defense down the floor in transition a number of times and they were able to find the gaps in the defense. Lincoln High shot over 50 percent inside the arc.
Lincoln High coach Dan Noble showed bit of gamesmanship as well, opening up the second quarter in an extended 2-3 zone, using their length to disrupt Westside’s ball movement. Westside hit a couple of 3s agains the zone, but they ended up shooting just 6-of-22 from deep from the game, not nearly enough to overcome Lincoln High’s advantage inside the arc and from the free throw line.
With Newton on the bench, Lincoln High was missing nearly 10 points and five rebounds per game as well as one of just two players on the roster taller than 6-foot-3.
The other 6-foot-6 Link was senior Boomer Jock and he stepped up in a big way for Lincoln High. Jock recorded his fourth double-double of the season with 15 points on 5-of-8 from the field and 5-of-7 from the line and 10 rebounds (four offensive). He showed acouple of impressive moves in the post and threw down a two-handed slam as well in the third quarter.
Jock went down with an apparent cramp midway through the fourth quarter but returned to help close out the game. He and Thompson had some battles throughout the night with both forwards winning their fair share.
Jock is a difference-maker when he plays like he did on Friday night, and that impact was very much needed with Newton out of the lineup.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.