Lincoln came into the season with relatively modest expectations. With two brand new coaches and many inexperienced players, the Railsplitters didn’t seem ready to compete with the PSAL’s upper-echelon teams.
Well, about a month in, it looks like they’re ready now.
For the second straight day, Lincoln upset a team ranked in The Post’s PSAL top 10, winning the Baseline Holiday Madness Tournament with a 55-42 victory Thursday over No. 9 Medgar Evers at IS 129 in The Bronx. On Wednesday, the Railsplitters (5-2) defeated No. 10 Truman, 32-30, in the semifinals. They already own a win over No. 8 Grand Street Campus.
“This is the biggest win for us, because it was a championship game,” first-year coach Titi Hodges said. “This is their first championship game together, even though it was a holiday tournament. They were so excited. A couple of our girls were crying.”
Sophomore point guard Simone Roberts again led the way with 19 points. Junior forward Erica Juarbe added 17 – but her biggest contribution might have been her six steals.
“The defense that she played today is really why she won MVP,” Hodges said.
Lincoln started off the season with a disappointing loss to Boys & Girls, but since then has won five of six games with the lone loss coming to No. 2 South Shore. Hodges said she was worried at the outset when she saw the intensity that Medgar Evers (7-3) played with. But she was incredibly proud of her girls afterward.
“It was unbelievable,” Hodges said. “They really played with their heart this game. It was amazing to see the girls like that. Everything was working.”
Senior guard Ashley Castle had 26 points and all 13 of the Cougars’ points in the second half. They were again without sophomore forward Shakila Small (personal reasons) and Lincoln was missing junior forward Janera Roper (family reasons). Medgar Evers coach Barney Davis left The Bronx impressed with what he saw from the Railsplitters, but glad he saw how good they are before they meet in league play Jan. 31.
“They’re doing a heck of a coaching job, I’ll tell you that,” Davis said of Hodges and co-coach Ciara Shields.
Hodges thinks – and hopes – that this victory will carry over into league play. Lincoln has a big game against Francis Lewis next week after the holidays.
“We just have to keep getting better and better each game,” Hodges said. “Hopefully we can keep that momentum up and their spirits will stay high.”
But when the ball drops Friday night, Lincoln will have something that cannot be taken away: a championship to finish 2010.
“They were so proud of themselves,” Hodges said. “That’s what made it so special.”