The Lincoln Hornets, who play in a gymnasium called The Hive and win games because their pressing defense never stops buzzing around the basketball, lost their sting for just a moment Tuesday night.
It was the beginning of the third quarter of Lincoln’s Southern California Regional Division III first-round boys’ basketball game against Inglewood Morningside. In just 1 minute 23 seconds, Lincoln’s one-point halftime lead turned into a seven-point deficit, and for the No. 1-seeded Hornets, things eventually got stickier.
Morningside, seeded No. 7, went on to post an 81-67 upset at Lincoln.
Afterwards, Lincoln Coach Ron Loneski spent a few moments talking about the lost moment--the one that saw Lincoln sleepwalk out of the dressing room and get undressed by an 8-0 Morningside run that would never be overcome.
“I take full responsibility,” Loneski said. “It’s a coach’s job to get his team ready to play. But when we came out for the second half, we weren’t ready. I may never know why, but I know that this won’t stop bothering me for a long time.”
For almost a year now, Lincoln (27-2) had been dreaming of a possible return to Oakland, where it lost the State Division III championship game last March. Morningside (24-5) put an end to those ideas quickly, however, after trailing, 33-32, at the intermission.
Donald Sanders, a quick point guard who struggled against Lincoln’s vaunted press in the first half, sliced through Lincoln’s complex coverages to start the third quarter and twice found center Jeff Crowe for easy layups.
Then Ken Jones, another slicing guard, stole a pass at half court and raced in for a layin to make it, 38-33. The short but telling run ended when Crowe, who led Morningside with 17 points, rebounded his own missed shot and scored for a 40-33 Morningside advantage with 6:37 left.
Joe Temple, who shot over Morningside’s trapping zone defenses most of the night and finished with a game-high 32 points, kept Lincoln in the hunt after that, but a Lincoln run really never materialized.
“Once we figured out their press, we were off and running,” said Jones, who like his team, started slowly but came back to score all of his 14 points in the second half. “They gave us some trouble for a while, that’s for sure.”
But Morningside dealt with the trouble. Especially after Temple threw down a slam and sent the crowd into a frenzy by giving Lincoln an early 5-0 lead.
“They’re going to have trouble with out press tonight,” Loneski said aloud.
Not in the second half, they didn’t. Lincoln’s defense wasn’t moving as quickly, and Morningside, which was deep enough to have nine players score, didn’t wear down.
The Morningside lead grew to 53-40 late in the third quarter and 69-52 midway through the fourth.
By that time, no sting would have been strong enough.