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February 10, 2008

Lincoln Beats #1 ranked Rice

TRENTON, NJ- There was revenge to be had for the Rice Raiders, as the match-up against the PSAL's Lincoln Railsplitters was a re-match of last season's New York State Federation Championship game. Lincoln was in control of this game from start to finish, as they topped the CHSAA School 75-68.

The Lincoln zone confused Rice, as Lincoln was able to control the tempo early and take a quick 10-2 lead after a Lance Stephenson 3 pointer with 5:12 left in the opening quarter. The junior Stephenson couldn't miss in the opening minutes of the game, as he knocked down jump shot after jump shot to spark Coach Dwayne Morton's squad. Lincoln, who led 20-9 after the first quarter, controlled Rice's guards thanks to their zone defense and their box-and-one defense. Durand Scott held the hot hand early for Rice, as he was able to connect from deep twice in the opening quarter and made up six of Rice's nine first quarter points.

Rice was able to get themselves into the game when Coach Maurice Hicks applied full court pressure on the Brooklyn school and forced a few turnovers. UConn-bound Kemba Walker also stepped his game up offensively in the second quarter, as he knocked down a few outside jump shots and finished at the rim. The Raiders were able to cut the lead to 36-29 by the time the buzzer for half time sounded, but could never seem to grab the momentum away from Lincoln. The junior phenom Stephenson led all scorers in the first half with 22 points, while fellow junior Darwin Ellis chipped in with 5 points. The senior Walker led Rice with 13 points in the opening half, while his junior teammate Durand Scott contributed 8 points for the Raiders.

Lincoln started the third quarter hitting the boards hard and using their size advantage to control the paint. Lincoln was also to contain Rice sharp shooter Chris Fouch, who didn't get many open looks throughout the evening. However, sloppy play from Lincoln led to Rice creeping back in the game, and with 1:30 to go in the third quarter after James Stukes knocked down two free throws, the Lincoln lead was cut to 46-43. The Railsplitters were able to increase their lead to a comfortable 7, leading 53-46 going into the final stanza.

Rice was able to hang in the game, but never get over the hump, as they fought to keep the lead within five for much of the final quarter. A Dorvell Carter jumper with 6:30 left in the fourth quarter cut the lead to 55-54. That was as close as Rice was able to come, as Lincoln knocked down all six of their free throws down the stretch to secure the game, something the Railsplitters weren't able to do in their loss against Boys & Girls earlier in the week. Lance Stephenson won the game MVP award and finished with 35 points on the evening, while Kemba Walker won the sportsmanship award and finished with 23 points in the losing effort.

Following the game, Lincoln coach Dwayne Morton knew that his team would be in for a fight through the full journey. "You can't pull away too much from a good team like Rice," said Morton following the game, as he added that he wasn't surprised that Lance Stephenson came out hot to start the game in a prime time game on television. "He lives for moments like this," said Morton.

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