By David Krueger Herald Writer
BELLEVUE — It’s been a while since the Jackson boys basketball team has lost a regular-season game.
The Timberwolves are hoping it doesn’t become a trend.
Jackson, the top-ranked team in the Associated Press 4A poll, dropped its first regular-season contest in over two years when the Timberwolves lost to 3A No. 3 Lincoln 62-55 Monday evening at the King Holiday Hoopfest Tournament at Bellevue College.
“We haven’t lost a regular-season game in a long time, so it’s kind of a weird feeling,” said Jackson head coach Steve Johnson. “Not a good feeling, I might add.”
The loss was Jackson’s first during the regular season since the Timberwolves, who had won 39 straight regular-season contests, lost to Monroe 54-52 on Jan. 12, 2012.
Jackson fell behind in the first quarter — where the Timberwolves trailed by as many as 13 — before erasing the deficit seconds before halftime on a tip-in by guard Jason Todd tied the score at 27 right before the end of the second quarter.
The Timberwolves carried that momentum into the third quarter with an 8-0 run to take a 37-30 lead over the Abes.
Lincoln then started a comeback of its own.
The Abes outscored Jackson 25-14 in the decisive fourth quarter to earn their biggest win of the season.
“We took control of the game but that has kind of a residual effect when you have to come back from so much, in terms of fatigue,” Johnson said. “I think just on the defensive end we really needed a stop to get separation and we just weren’t able to do it. … Hopefully, big picture we learn from that.”
A pair of underclassmen in sophomore Trevion Brown and freshman Londrell Hamilton had 12 points each to lead Lincoln (12-1), which finished third at the 3A state tournament last season.
Johnson purposefully scheduled the King Holiday Hoopfest game against Lincoln — as well as the prestigious MaxPreps Holiday Classic Holiday Tournament in California in late December which the Timberwolves won — to face a challenging crop of opponents that would help Jackson grow as a team.
“They’re a good team and made us pay for some of our mistakes,” Johnson said. “That’s why we wanted to play as challenging of a schedule as we possibly could and play teams like that. Hopefully we learn some valuable lessons.”
The Lincoln Abes had a similar plan when scheduling the game against Jackson.
“Coming in we’re like, ‘Win or lose, we’re playing a really good team who’s very experienced and it’s going to teach us something. We’re going to learn from this game,’” said Lincoln head coach Aubrey Shelton. “We’re very happy to play a team of their caliber because we have state aspirations and all that stuff and if we want to win at state and get to state we have to beat teams like Jackson.”
The Abes’ early success meant Jackson had to rally its players from an early point in the game. And the comeback took its toll on the players in the final quarter.
So did foul trouble.
Each team had two players foul out — Dan Kingma and Connor Willgress for Jackson and Cameron Collins and Dionte Simon for the Abes — in the fourth quarter. Kingma’s absence was especially felt by the Timberwolves in the game’s final 1 minute and 44 seconds.
“Obviously, it didn’t help,” Johnson said. “He’s one of those guys that’s capable of making that big shot when you really need it. It was huge (losing him).”
Shelton said that Kingma’s fifth foul, an offensive charge, was probably the biggest play of the night for Lincoln.
“Our freshman (Hamilton), that charge he took on Kingma, that might have been the play of the game,” Shelton said, “because I think they made the bucket — so you negate the bucket and foul him out. I don’t know if it gets any bigger than that.”
Kingma finished with 15 points and Brian Zehr added 12 points and five rebounds for the Timberwolves. Todd had a game-high 22 points — 12 of which came from the free throw line — and 12 rebounds. The senior had nine free throws in the first half alone, when he continually drove to the basket and drew contact.
“The Jason Todd kid, he’s a handful,” Shelton said. “He probably shot 20 free throws, it seemed like. He just gets to the line. He’s really tough to defend. He’s a really tough player.”
Jackson (13-1 overall) suffered its first loss since last year’s 4A state championship game on March 2. The Timberwolves won their first 26 games last season before falling to Curtis 60-56.
This season if Jackson is going to make it back to the Tacoma Dome, it’s going to be with at least one loss in its record.
“I think some people sort of thought, ‘OK we’re going to sort of go through the whole thing again, and be undefeated and see (what happens) in the playoffs,’” Johnson said. “It’s not going to work out that way. Our path is going to be a little different. Now we’ll see how we respond. I think we’ll respond well.”
The Timberwolves get right back to work with a Wesco 4A contest today against Wesco 4A North-leading Arlington (14-1), which also only has one loss this season.
Johnson thinks his team will be ready for its next challenge.
“They are certainly a very competitive, resilient group,” Johnson said. “The good news, or the bad news, is we just have to turn around and play (Tuesday) against a good team who we’ve certainly had some big games with lately. There’s really no choice. It’s not like we have practice and things to worry about. We’ve got to go out and get after it. I think we’ll respond well, but we’ll see.”
At Bellevue College
Lincoln 20 7 10 25 — 62
Jackson 10 17 14 14 — 55
Lincoln—Josiah Barsh 6, Cameron Collins 9, Justice Martion 9, Isaiah Smalls 2, Trevion Brown 12, Shon Peterson 0, Londrell Hamilton 12, Jusstis Warren 4, Dionte Simon 8. Jackson—Dan Kingma 15, Jason Todd 22, Brian Zehr 12, Marcus Blake 2, Holden Roberts 0, Connor Willgress 2, Sam Saufferer 2, Blake Ozuna 0, Riley Waite 0. 3-point goals—Barsh 1, Hamilton 1, Brown 1, Simon 1, Kingma 2, Zehr 1. Records—Lincoln 12-1 overall. Jackson 13-1.