It occurs to me that I may have failed the Lincoln basketball team.
If the Railsplitters beat Roman Catholic at 8 p.m. in Wednesday’s PIAA Class 6A finale at the Giant Center in Hershey, it won’t be an upset.
It wouldn’t even be a shocker. They’ve recently beaten Roman to win a championship and came close last season.
In fact, I think Lincoln should enter this game as the favorite.
That’s no disrespect to coach Matt Griffin’s Cahillites, who are as tough as they come and had to be to win the Catholic League championship at the Palestra.
The matchup, however, favors Lincoln, which can comfortably play 10 to 12 players, while Roman has played a rotation of six or seven all season.
I have watched coach Al Brown’s team often over the last two seasons and evidently haven’t described it well enough or often enough. Lincoln has adopted an underdog’s mentality, in part, because ill-informed people (that’s my fault) around the city have doubted its program.
So to be clearer, the Railsplitters’ recent run isn’t an aberration. It hasn’t been an outrageous run of hot shooting. They aren’t overachieving. This is who they’ve been for months.
Historically, other programs in the area might have more banners, but games aren’t played in the rafters.
Lincoln (25-6) is a deep, defensive-minded, talented and athletic team with at least one player to fulfill every role a championship team needs.
Khalif Meares has probably been the Railsplitters’ most consistent player. The 6-foot-3 senior is dynamic and disruptive on the defensive end with a slick handle that helps him penetrate and pass to teammates or finish with either hand around the basket.
Meares starts the break with the steal and helps end it with a dime to Morrison. Late in the fourth. pic.twitter.com/fnNuNoPGE6
— Aaron Carter (@AceCarterINQ) March 17, 2018
Fellow senior guard Shakeir Morrison, 6-0, is a stocky, tough, consummate Philly guard who can get to the basket, finish with contact and get hot from the outside.
Tyree Corbett, a 6-6 senior forward, transferred from Frankford in December and adds a long-armed rebounding machine who scored 29 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in the quarterfinals against Neshaminy.
Plus, during this recent PIAA run, one of Lincoln’s best players, Jahi Randall, hasn’t even spent much time on the court. Randall, a 6-6 senior, has been plagued by foul trouble.
When he’s on the court, as he was when Lincoln shocked some by beating Roman in the District 12 championship game, he is a handful down low.
Senior point guard Sanhei Day is one of the best backups in the city and allows Meares to move off the ball, which makes Lincoln more dynamic offensively and quicker defensively. Day, who is about 5-9, is also a taker and maker of big shots.
(Tweets eaten by WiFi) Day for 👌🏾 Lincoln leads Neshaminy, 57-50, after Q3. Arcidiacono 25, Dominick 17. Corbett 25&14. pic.twitter.com/V7ysh4DHuJ
— Aaron Carter (@AceCarterINQ) March 17, 2018
Junior wing Emeul Charleston, 5-10, is another shot maker who has made critical three-pointers in Lincoln’s recent run. Fellow junior Aseem Luckey, a 6-7 forward who transferred from Frankford, had eight points and 11 rebounds against Neshaminy.
Meares, Day, Randall and Morrison are among the key Lincoln players who nearly nipped Roman in last year’s district title game.
Lincoln will likely use multiple pressure defenses against Roman — even if it doesn’t produce early turnovers — to speed the tempo and zap the Cahillites’ late-game gumption.
Wild sequence ends with Lincoln ahead, 51-49, with 53.3 left in Q3. pic.twitter.com/YN3ba21Yml
— Aaron Carter (@AceCarterINQ) March 24, 2018
Don’t count Roman (23-6) out, however.
Arguably no player has matured more significantly this season than sophomore guard Lynn Greer III.
Thrice during the regular season, I watched Greer III make his move too soon at the end of quarters in three games.
In the PCL finale at the Palestra, however, the 6-3 guard played it perfectly and helped author a finish for the ages.
The 🏆 play people may be talking about for years: Lynn Greer III to Hakim Hart with 1.6 left. @RomanCatholicHS leads 51-49. @RallyPhilly @AOPathletics @Lynn_Greer3 #LynnGreer3 pic.twitter.com/ZuIFiJ0tEL
— Aaron Carter (@AceCarterINQ) February 27, 2018
Six-foot-4 senior forward Allen Betrand, even when he was a sophomore at Samuel Fels, has been an underrated player who can score, defend and lead.
Hakim Hart, a 6-5 forward who transferred from Kingsway in South Jersey, is a stone-cold scorer who made the game-winning layup, assisted by Greer, in the PCL finale against Bonner-Prendergast.
And junior forward Seth Lundy, 6-6, is one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the area. John Kelly, 6-5, is a senior who provides toughness and Louie Wild has a heart as big as his 6-foot-ish frame.
Roman is formidable and could very well win its third PIAA title in four years.
The Cahillites just shouldn’t be the favorite simply because they play in the Catholic League.
Games aren’t won in the rafters where previous banners hang. We’ll see who earns the right to raise a new one.