For three quarters, Capital High School was on track to play spoiler to Lincoln’s perfect season.
The Cougars took a lead into halftime, and remained in reach for much of the second half, but the second-ranked Abes rallied late, preserving their undefeated streak with a 56-44 win Saturday at Puyallup High School.
Lincoln’s physicality fueled a late 12-3 run, sending the Abes to the 3A West Central/Southwest bidistrict semifinals. Lincoln is in position to defend its district title from a season ago with the win.
“It’s tough on my nervous system sometimes when they play like that, but give my guys credit,” Lincoln coach Aubrey Shelton said. “They know how to bounce back. They know how to finish games, and they showed a lot of heart in that second half.”
Capital entered as the No. 3 seed out of the 3A South Sound Conference, and without its leading scorer Chris Penner (achilles), who was averaging 15.6 points per game.
But the Cougars matched Lincoln’s physicality for most of the game, and went on a 17-3 run during the second quarter, eventually taking a 27-19 lead into the break.
Dawson Landers scored 11 of his game-high 25 points — which included six 3-pointers — during that quarter, as the Cougars built a double-digit lead at one point. Luke Layton chipped in 10 points for Capital.
“I didn’t know (Landers) could shoot like that, that’s for sure,” Shelton said. “We knew he could shoot. I didn’t know he could shoot like that. Any open look he had, or even contested look he was knocking them down.”
“He’s capable of doing that,” Capital coach Brian Vandiver said. “He had no fear. None of our guys did.”
Lincoln has only trailed at halftime one other time this season, to Spanaway Lake early in January. The Abes eventually rallied for a win over the Sentinels, and did the same Saturday against Capital.
“Nobody outside of us expected us to come in here and do anything, but we expected that,” Vandiver said. “We gave the game away in our opinion. We had an opportunity.”
The Abes scored on nine of their first 11 possessions in the second half, eventually regaining the lead for good on a Le’Zjon Bonds basket just before the end of the third quarter.
Bonds led the Abes with 17 points, while Emmett Linton added 16.
“They came out with a lot of intensity, and they came out with something we didn’t really expect,” Bonds said of Capital. “It was pretty much just push the tempo (in the second half) and stop their guards.”
In the final quarter, Lincoln limited the Cougars to just two field goals, and forced seven turnovers. Capital didn’t score from the field for more than six minutes to open the fourth quarter.
“Ultimately, they’re an athletic, quick team,” Vandiver said. “You can’t simulate that in practice as much as you may try. It got to us finally a little bit in the fourth quarter.”
Lincoln (22-0) moves on to meet ninth-ranked Timberline (18-4) in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Thursday at Foss High School. Both teams are guaranteed a trip to the 3A state playoffs.
“We’re just focused on getting a ring,” Bonds said. “Survive and advance, basically.”
Meanwhile, Capital takes the hard road to earn a state-playoff berth, needing to wins to secure a trip. The Cougars (16-6) meet the winner of Saturday night’s matchup between Evergreen of Vancouver and Hudson’s Bay at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday at Foss.
“Two things are going to happen in districts when you lose,” Vandiver said. “Either you’re going to feel sorry for yourself and be out, or you’re going to pick yourself back up and win two games starting Tuesday.”
The Cougars will look to achieve the latter, he says.
NO. 2 LINCOLN
C – Layton 10, Landers 25, Walker 3, Erickson 6
L – Linton 16, D. Dillingham 4, Bonds 17, Thomas 8, Braggs 9, Simon 2