Nearly three full days after Lincoln knocked off recent Catholic League champ Roman Catholic in the District 12 Class 6A championship game, the Railsplitters were still all smiles before practice on Tuesday.
“It was crazy,” said grinning senior point guard Khalif Meares. “I had happy tears and everything.”
“It’s unbelievable,” added jubilant senior forward Jahi Randall. “For the past two years all that work we put in paid off.”
“They’re in the Lincoln history books now,” coach Al Brown said.
Lincoln’s 86-76 victory gave the school its first boys’ basketball district title and let the city know that the Public League has more talented teams than just nationally-renowned Imhotep.
On Saturday at 5 p.m., the Railsplitters — the top-seed from District 12 — will face Upper Darby, District 1’s No. 8 seed, at Southern in 6A first-round action.
“Stay focused,” said Randall, whose 15 points against Roman came mostly from the interior. “Just want to make sure everybody stays focused. Everybody’s in the weight room and then just get back to work.”
Randall is a 6-6, 220-pound inside-outside threat, who came to Lincoln as a junior after his sophomore year at George Washington and freshman year at KIPP DuBois.
Randall said he’d played mostly on the perimeter this season, but returned to the paint against undersized Roman, which typically only plays six players and needed guts and guile to overcome dearth down low in the PCL finale against Bonner-Prendergast.
Meares, the Player of the Year in the Pub’s Liberty Division, added 18 points, but perhaps more importantly added a steady hand, which Lincoln lacked in last year’s loss to Roman in the district finale.
“Last year we had them but we had at least six mental mistakes in the fourth quarter,” Meares said.
This year: “When the game got serious, we had people out there with experience,” Randall said.
This year, Meares said Lincoln’s guards had just four turnovers all game.
Newcomer Tyree Corbett, who transferred from Frankford in December, also added 18 points for Lincoln, which, in addition to grabbing glory for itself, also showed the Pub’s depth as a league.
In the four District 12 titles games where Pub and PCL teams matched up, Imhotep — No. 8 in the nation, according to USA Today — and Lincoln were the only winners (the PCL had no teams in Class 1A or 2A classifications).
Martin Luther King, however, had Bonner-Prendie cooked in regulation before losing an 8-point edge in the final minute and falling in overtime of the Class 5A final.
Neumann-Goretti dominated Dobbins, 78-49, in Class 3A play, while Imhotep manhandled Conwell-Egan, 99-48, in the 4A final.
In Class 6A and 5A seeding games, respectively, Frankford pushed St. Joseph’s Prep before falling, 55-47, last week, while Archbishop Carroll needed overtime to overcome Mastery North, 67-61.
McDevitt also beat Mastery North, 71-54, in 3A play. In addition to Lincoln’s victory, Sankofa won its second straight 1A title and Math, Civics and Sciences claimed the 2A crown.
“This was a great win for our kids,” Brown said, “but it wasn’t just good for Lincoln, it was good for the Public League, too.”
Lincoln should be a dangerous team in PIAA play. Coach Brown’s team has depth, size, versatility, excellent athleticism and seems to have a player to fulfill any role.
Consistency has been a challenge this season as has playing as a cohesive unit.
If the Railsplitters can stay together, they’re capable of beating anyone.
”Between last year and this year, I think the major difference is the guys really bought into the team concept,” Brown said. “There were no individuals. They played for each other.”