LINCOLN – You want to keep fighting the good fight, but sometimes that’s not nearly enough.
A season littered with frustrating moments continues for Kent Crooks and his Lincoln High squad. The Lions dressed just six players for Tuesday night’s Division II-Central contest against Shea, the Raiders taking full advantage in a 66-37 runaway performance at The Lions’ Den.
Lincoln played the game minus two regulars, a disparaging development that’s been far too commonplace for Crooks & Co. this winter. Between the suspensions and losing players due to grades, Crooks has been forced to deal with matters that go well beyond the typical coaching boundaries.
To their credit the undermanned Lions put their best foot forward and Crooks more than did his part when it came to offering constructive criticism/encouragement. Still, it can’t be easy to find a silver lining amidst a gathering of ominous clouds. Lincoln falls to 4-12 in league play, a mark that will keep them out of the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
Afterwards, Crooks spoke from the heart as he touched upon some of the troubles that have plagued the Lions.
“Sometimes with today’s kids, it’s difficult. They all have answers and coaches in the stands that are telling them stuff,” said the coach. “One of the hardest things that I’ve had to deal with is reluctance on the part of some players to be coached up.”
Shea head coach Matt Pita was more than complimentary when discussing his opponent. “Those [Lincoln] kids played their hearts out. They played tough,” Pita noted. “They’re well-coached and I give them a lot of credit.”
Crooks is optimistic that he’ll have the two players who missed the Shea game back in the lineup Friday at North Providence. In the meantime the beat goes on for the Lions, who received a team-best 12 points from junior Ryan Kelly with senior Leke Akanji added 10 points. Tyge Joyce was good for nine points, all coming on 3-pointers.
Tuesday saw Pita enjoy one of those rare coaching luxuries, that of emptying the bench during the second half. Malcolm Rosa and Michael Neal paced the victors with 12 points apiece while senior Jordy Brito passed for 11 assists.
“I thought we played well and continue to play well,” Pita stated. “We didn’t have any letup.”
The win enables Shea (13-3) to remain one game behind first-place North Providence in the race for the division title. The Raiders close out the regular season with home games against Tolman (Friday) and North Providence (next Tuesday).
With Brito on a personal mission to get his teammates involved rather than looking for his own points, the Raiders ended the first half on a 17-5 run to take a commanding 38-21 lead into intermission. The Lions scored the first six points of the second half before the visitors responded in a major way, ripping off 22 straight points on their way to enjoying a 60-27 lead with 6:38 remaining.
“The kid Neal makes them that much stronger inside,” Crooks noted. “Talking to Matt before the game, a kid like Jordy Brito is letting the game come to him and making other people better. That’s something we’re trying to inculcate here.”