Northâ€™s head basketball coach David Johnson challenged his team at the beginning of the week to win all three games scheduled; mission accomplished.
With a 72-63 victory over Polk Co. Friday night, the Knights swept their competition for the week. In doing so, they also gave former North Lincoln Athletic Director Scott Sekal, now Polk Co. head coach, a rude homecoming.
While Johnson tried to treat it like a regular game, it was anything but for his players.
â€œThey were excited about it. They wanted to show him (Sekal) they could play. They wanted to step up their game and not only beat their coach, but I also challenged them earlier in the week to win all three. By winning, we did both. I just didnâ€™t want them to get too caught up in the fact that it was their former coach,â€ he said.
Guard Trishtan Johnson did not play for Sekal last season, but once again paced the Knights with 17 points. Kenny Bethea and Alex Loftin, who both played last season under Sekal, contributed with 15 points apiece. Johnson was encouraged his team had three players in double figures.
â€œIt is showing we are playing more as a team. They are starting to understand the concept that a ball club that plays together is a lot harder to defend. With us not having the same people score every night, and with us having multiple players in double-figuresâ€”it makes it harder to defend us.â€
North Lincoln buying into the team concept has allowed them to put together four straight wins. Arguably, the biggest factor in the win streak is the play of Trishtan, who has led them in scoring all four games.
â€œHe has played both offense and defense for us lately. Heâ€™s been able to play the passing lane which leads to easy baskets. By him leading the offense; it just opens him up for some outside shooting as well,â€ Johnson said.
Josh Twitty, Deshea Brisco and Garrett each had 12 points to led the Wolverines.
It has been quite a turnaround for the Knights, who at one point lost eight consecutive contests this season. Johnson believes the biggest difference is confidence.
â€œAnytime you lose a lot in a row, you get your heads down and we just tried to convince them they could play with anyone. Then all of sudden you win one, then two and then it snowballs and it turns into, â€˜We can do this, instead of we canâ€™t,â€™â€ he said.
North Lincoln improves their record to 7-10, 4-1 Southern Foothills 1A Conference. They will host Maiden on Tuesday with a chance to gain a share of first place in the SF 1A.
Johnson, while being proud of what theyâ€™ve been able to accomplish, knows after the game against the Blue Devils teams will be chomping at the bit to play them again.
â€œThe biggest thing is we canâ€™t get a big head. We were underdogs in the games the first time around. The next time; we wonâ€™t be,â€ he said.
One of the biggest changes in the win streak has been the team believing in themselves no matter what the situation.
â€œThe biggest thing is they never give up. Even when a team comes back and ties it; we always have somebody to step up. Itâ€™s never the same person. If theyâ€™re going shut down Trishtan, then there is Lesharion, Kenny or Alex,â€ Johnson said.
North Lincoln 16 16 13 27-72
Polk County 15 7 21 20-63
KNIGHTS: Lesharion Johnson 4, Trishtan Johnson 17, Alex Loftin 15, David Ward 9, Thompson 3, Kenny Bethea 15, Matt Kight 2, Peyton Brady 7.
WOLVERINES: Justin Covil 11, Deshea Brisco 12, Lynch 17, McEntyre 2, Josh Twitty 12, Sowers 2, Garrett 12, Brisco 4.
The Lady Knights fell to the Wolverines 61-47. The Wolverines were paced by Briana Cunningham with 18 points.
Polk Co. outscored the home team 24-6 in the final quarter to earn the win.
Alyssa Lowe led the Knights with 15 points, while freshman Kayla Alexander added 14 in the losing cause.
North held a 41-37 lead entering the fourth quarter. With the loss, they fall to 8-9, 2-3 in the SF 1A.
Alyssa Lowe looks to make a move in Fridayâ€™s game. Lowe led the Knights with 15 points in a 61-47 loss. Joseph Brymer / LTN Photo
by John Mark Brooks