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Bodner, Smith, Frye return to lead Patriots

STANFORD — Three starters return this season for the Lincoln County High School Patriots, a team that reached the pinnacle of the sport last spring.

The Patriots, winners of five 45th District titles in the past six years, clinched the 12th Region title at the end of the 2018-19 season to earn the team a berth in the Sweet 16 State Tournament.

Lincoln lost four seniors to graduation from last year’s 23-13 team, however, several lettermen  return to give the team a strong base to build on, including returning starters Riley Bodner, Jaxon Smith and Elijah Frye.

Smith, a sophomore who plays at guard, averaged 12.3 points per game last season and averaged three rebounds. Frye, a senior guard, finished right behind Smith, averaging 11.7 points per game with 4.6 rebounds. Bodner, a senior center, averaged 6.3 points while grabbing 7.9 rebounds.

Among two of the top returning players from last year’s roster are senior guard Bryston Alcorn and junior guard Baylor Mattingly. Alcorn averaged 4.7 points and 1.4 rebounds last season coming off the bench while Mattingly averaged 3.3 points.Bodner, Frye and Alcorn are 3/4 of the Patriots’ senior class. Also returning for his final season is senior forward Preston Durham.

“We’ve got a good nucleus back,” Lincoln coach Jeff Jackson said. “We’ve got four good seniors with Riley, Elijah, Bryston and Preston. We’ve got good leadership from them. And we’ve got experience coming back. Baylor played a lot last year and, of course, Jaxon is back as a sophomore as well.”

That experience has helped Jackson set his starting five for Tuesday’s season-opening game at Lafayette.

“Last night (Saturday) in our scrimmage at Henry Clay, I started Riley, Jaxon, Elijah, Bryston, who has had a great summer and fall, and Baylor,” he said. “If the trend continues in practice, we will open with the starters we had at Henry Clay.

Twenty-two players are on the Patriots’ varsity roster for 2019-20. The junior class includes Rodney Alcorn, Cade Jenkins and Brady Weaver. The sophomore class is Lee Amon, Clayton Davis, Colin Green and Cruise Wilson. And the freshman class is Tramane Alcorn, Layne Lark, Jansen McAninch, Trevor Miracle, Zach Moore, Jason Petrey, Colton Ralston, Jackson Sims and Jalen Smith.

“We had Brady and Tramane and Preston come off the bench during the scrimmage last night and Cruise Wilson, who is playing really, really well right now. And Colton Ralston,” Jackson said. “Colton and Tramane have played really well but they are freshmen and have a lot to learn. They have very good basketball IQ.”

“There’s nine, ten or eleven kids we could play in different spots in different times. We’re working to plug people into the right spots. We want to make sure we get people in the positions where they can play to their strengths. We want to give everybody a good look and see what they can do in certain situations. Find the right combinations and the right chemistry of kids coming off the bench.”

And what does Jackson say is the biggest key to the team’s success this season?

“The big thing is we’ve got to get healthy and stay healthy,” he said. “That is always crucial for us as it is for everyone.”

The Patriots have already been beset by injuries. Bodner and Smith have both been sidelined during the preseason, Bodner with a broken big toe and Smith with back spasms and tightness. Smith is back playing and Bodner is practicing and scrimmaged at Henry Clay. Bodner still wears a boot on his foot when not playing to relieve pressure on the toe.

Also sidelined for now are Rodney Alcorn (ankle) and Lee Amon (labrum) who are now with the team but were injured during football season.

“The stomach virus has also hit us,” Jackson said. “It is really ripping through the team right now. But this is just temporary.”

With the tipoff on the season just days away, what area is Jackson putting special emphasis on in practice?

“I think our ball movement is good. We’ve shared the ball well. We make the extra passes. Kids are very unselfish and they want to work hard to improve and get better. But there are some things we need to do better offensively. Our spacing was not good offensively at Henry Clay. We’ve got to do a better job of recognizing defenses,” he said. “On the defensive end, we’ve got to do a better job of communicating. Our man has been good but our zone was not real good last night. We took bad angles.”

Whether the team has all the kinks worked out by Tuesday or not, Jackson says the players are all ready to take on Lafayette.

“We’ve had 30-some days of practices, good practices, and they’ve been working really hard and competing hard. And we’ve had two scrimmages. I think everybody is excited about getting started,” he said. “Our schedule is crazy. Honestly, it could be the toughest in the 17 years I’ve been here. We want to play good people. I want them to play good people to try to improve because we hope, by the end of the year, that we can get better and be in the thick of things in our region and district.”