Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Lincoln girls total 14 steals, force 25 turnovers to storm into 4A title game
AUSTIN — Lincoln’s offense often doesn’t click right away. Sometimes, like in the first quarter Thursday night, the Tigers go through stretches of ice-cold shooting.
But rarely does it matter. Defense is the engine for Lincoln, which used smothering full-court pressure to cruise past Aledo, 64-44, in a Class 4A semifinal at the Frank Erwin Center.
“We always say we want to wear down our opponents. Even when we think we’re winded, we don’t ever let it show,” Lincoln coach Carlesa Dixon said. “If we want it, we’ve got to suck it up and go for it.”
Lincoln (36-4) will go for it — a fourth state title — on Saturday at 3 p.m. The Tigers, who are No. 2 in the 4A state rankings, will take on No. 1 Georgetown (33-4).
Lincoln junior guard Alisha Washington led all scorers with 20 points, but her six steals were more indicative of the night. Lincoln had 14 steals and forced 25 turnovers against Aledo (30-8), which scored the first seven points and made five of its first seven field goal attempts. Aledo stretched its lead to 12-3 midway through the first quarter as it broke Lincoln’s press and cashed in on open shots.
But as is usually the case, Lincoln’s pressure began cracking its opponent.
“After about the first four to six minutes of the game, I felt like we had trouble getting the ball past half-court,” Aledo coach Rusty Johnson said. “Their pressure got to us a little bit.”
And once Lincoln’s shooters began to thaw out, the Tigers started running away. Aledo led 17-10 after the first quarter, but it didn’t make a field goal in the second quarter as Lincoln went on a 17-3 run and took the lead for good.
The most telling statistic of the first half was field goal attempts. Aledo attempted 15 to a whopping 42 for Lincoln. Aledo didn’t make a field goal in the third quarter, either, managing just 10 points on free throws in a span of 17 minutes.
During that time, Lincoln turned a 17-10 deficit into a 44-27 lead as Washington and senior guard Jade Colbert (14 points) helped kick-start the offense.
“That’s an outstanding team,” Johnson said of Lincoln. “They’re really athletic, and they make you pay for mistakes.”
Lincoln makes opponents pay even more when they get tired. Many of Aledo’s turnovers in the second half turned into layups, helping Lincoln make 14 of 23 shots (61 percent) after halftime. And when the Tigers missed, they crashed the boards effectively. Jalah Walton, a 6-1 freshman, had five offensive rebounds (and 11 total) to go with her 12 points.
“We don’t get rattled early,” Dixon said. “We knew that once we started playing our game, which is defense, that we would be right back in the game.”
Now Lincoln is right back where it wants to be, playing for its first title since 2008.
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter at @mattwixon.