Historically these kinds of tense inner-city scores got started at preseason hoop-go-rounds, and finished up in the final weeks of Narrows League play – in one big division.
Now things are different. Bellarmine Prep leads the Narrows 4A, and Lincoln sits atop Narrows 3A – both staring each other down from different perches.
Well that staredown finally hit the hardwood Friday night as the two powerhouse programs – undefeated against other city opponents all season – finally met in a league crossover game.
The Lions hit their big shot in the final 35 seconds – and the Abes didn’t. It all led to host Bellarmine Prep’s 45-41 victory over top-ranked 3A Lincoln in packed Names Gymnasium.
Senior standouts Lucas Meikle (game-high 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting) and Sefo Liufau (13 points, 11 rebounds) carried the mail for the Lions. But in the fourth quarter, it was a junior off the bench who stole the show.
Mar’kese Jackson scored eight points, but six of them came in the fourth quarter – all on determined drives into the lane. His last one, right up the middle past two Lincoln defenders, gave the Lions a 43-41 lead with 32 seconds remaining.
Jackson, a 6-foot-3 guard, ended up being the much-needed – and much-appreciated – X-factor for the Lions.
“I am just a Bellarmine guy – I come off the bench, but I got the shot and I had a chance and I knocked it down,” he said with a big grin. “The play kind of broke down, but Sefo (Liufau) came through and set a nice screen, and I had a wide-open lay-in.”
The Abes called timeout with 13.6 seconds remaining – and got the basketball to Colorado-bound forward Tre’Shaun Fletcher on the perimeter. He took a couple dribbles and got off a 14-foot jumper over Liufau just left of the key, which hit the front of the rim and fell off.
“We just wanted (Fletcher) to catch it in the high post and go to work,” Abes coach Aubrey Shelton said. “He got a decent look.”
Liufau eventually secured the rebound, was fouled and knocked down two free throws with 0.5 seconds to go for the Lions.
Even with its rough stretches, the game was competitive throughout. The biggest lead either team had was four points. Part of that was by the Lions’ design. Their game plan was to play slower and make it a possession-by-possession grinder.
It was the first time all season both Lincoln standouts – Fletcher and guard Ahmaad Rorie (season-low eight points) – struggled offensively. Fletcher made five of 16 shots, and Rorie was 3-of-13 on field goal attempts.
Overall, the Abes were 12-of-42 from the floor – and saw their nine-game winning streak halted.