The Lincoln Lady Abes rode the waves of momentum in their first district playoff game in six years. Unfortunately, it was Kelso that had the last laugh, as the Abes surrendered a 12-point lead with four minutes left in the game to fall 62-57 to the Highlanders on Feb. 12 at Clover Park High School.
“Chalk it up to playoff inexperience, (being) defensively gassed, all the things that (you start conditioning) in the summer time to try to avoid,” said Lincoln head coach Cal-Jean Lloyd, adding that the experience will help down the road. “It’s all mental. There’s no coaching strategy, it’s just a mental game. (Kelso) had the final advantage in momentum.”
Tamia Braggs – who led Lincoln with 25 points and added nine rebounds – put the Abes up 56-44 with a layup midway through the fourth quarter that completed a 16-3 run. But the Highlanders quickly responded, outscoring the Abes 18-1 down the stretch by applying tough pressure defense. Kelso tied it on Brianna Salberg’s layup with 1:20 remaining, and Kailynn Rae nailed a three-pointer less than a minute later to put the Highlanders ahead for good.
Trailing 16-8 at the end of the first quarter, the Abes outscored Kelso 17-16 in the second quarter to trail 32-25 at the break. Braggs had seven points in the period, Precious Hunkin cut the deficit to 25-22 with a three-pointer with under two minutes left and Ki-Renee Armstrong added a three-point play with 13 seconds until the break.
Hunkin helped the Abes keep pace early in the third quarter, and Armstrong fired a nice pass to Braggs for an easy layup midway through the quarter to give Lincoln its first lead at 35-34. The lead changed hands a few more times, but Armstrong – who finished with 13 points – nailed a three with two seconds left to put Lincoln up 45-41 heading into the fourth. Armstrong added another three early in the final period to give the Abes a 54-44 lead.
“We just came out and really tried to play more our style of basketball, which would be tough on defense, contesting shots, (limiting Kelso to) one or two-shot opportunities,” Lloyd said.
But turnovers began to spell trouble for the Abes, as Rae – who tied Taylor Flick with a team-high 13 points – and Salberg quickly brought Kelso back in the game.
“I’m really proud of where we are as a program, and hungry now to really get after it,” Lloyd said. “It’s not the way we wanted to end the season, but the future is bright. I’m proud of the girls. It’s still a good night to be an Abe.”
By Jeremy Helling