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Pats survive road trip to Wayne; win 56-55

MONTICELLO — The Lincoln County boys basketball team improved to 3-0, but it took a major rally effort to do so.

The defending 12th Region champion Patriots, who won a five-overtime thriller the last time they faced Wayne County to reach the 2019 region final, survived once again Tuesday night at Coach Rodney Woods Gymnasium, overcoming a 15-point second-half deficit to edge the host Cardinals 56-55 in the inaugural Jack Upchurch Classic.

“Any time you can come down here and play and win, regardless of how you win, it’s quality,” Lincoln coach Jeff Jackson said. “We found ourselves down but we did what we had to do to find a way to win on the road in a tough environment.”

“And to be a part of the first Jack Upchurch Classic was really cool, too. What he meant to high school basketball in the state of Kentucky, especially at Wayne and Lincoln, it was good to be a part of that for our kids.”

Senior center Riley Bodner paced Lincoln in the win with a team-high 19 points and 12 boards and Elijah Frye, who was named the Player of the Game for Lincoln, finished with 14 points, four assists and three steals.

Both players came up big in the Patriots’ 29-13 closing run to overcome the 15-point deficit. Frye scored half of his total points in the run, putting up the bucket which ignited the rally in the third quarter. He also forced several Wayne turnovers which turned into Patriot points and he capped an 8-2 fourth-quarter run to get the Pats within 51-50. Bodner backed up his points with a powerful presence on the boards, denying the Cardinal offense second looks with six of his 12 rebounds in the late run.

“I thought Riley played really, really well and I thought Elijah, defensively, was crazy good,” Jackson said. “It was just a big effort tonight.”

Lincoln, which was behind 18-16 after the first quarter and 38-27 at the half, trailed 42-27 with 5:34 to play in the third quarter when Frye tallied to get the comeback started. Jaxon Smith followed with three free throws. Baylor Mattingly then hit back-to-back buckets, going coast-to-coast on his own steal before taking a Frye steal to the hoop. Bodner closed Lincoln’s 15-5 third-quarter run with three straight goals, two off putbacks, to cut the Wayne lead to 47-42.

Thomas Spencer, who had 12 points for Wayne, opened the fourth quarter with a bucket only to have Lincoln answer with the 8-2 scoring surge. Free throws, one each from Bodner and Frye, kicked off the run. Bryston Alcorn, Mattingly and Frye tacked on a bucket apiece in the run to make it a 51-50 ballgame with 5:20 to play.

Reese Sexton, who had a game-high 21 points and was Wayne’s Player of the Game, went baseline to push the Cards back up 53-50. But Bodner answered with a bucket in the paint then Alcorn, who finished with nine points, followed with a putback with 2:40 to go for Lincoln’s first lead, 54-53, since early in the second quarter. Wayne’s Kameron Gehring hit with 1:56 to play to edge the Cards back on top but Frye scored 15 seconds later to give the lead back to the Pats.

Lincoln never relinquished the lead.

Gehring tried to put Wayne back on top with under a minute to play but the shot missed and Bodner grabbed the rebound. Jaxon Smith had the opportunity to add to Lincoln’s lead when he was fouled with 23.4 seconds to play. However, Smith would miss the front end of the 1-and-1, giving Wayne another shot at the lead. The Cards would get off two shots on the trip down the floor and, when Spencer was fouled by Bodner on the second shot with just 9-tenths of a second on the clock, the Cardinal fans celebrated anticipating a tie or win with two free throws coming.

But the shots wouldn’t fall, and Bodner was there to grab the rebound off the second miss to seal the win for Lincoln.

“I thought our effort and energy the second half was really, really good and I thought our kids played really hard,” said Jackson. “We got moving. The first half we didn’t guard really well and they were ready to play. They hit shots and got on a roll. But we kept our composure and come out the second half and got after it a little bit with our press and caused some turnovers and got some easy baskets.”

Both teams had the  shots falling in the first quarter, with Lincoln and Wayne both going 7-for-12 from the floor. Wayne earned the 18-16 edge with four 3-pointers to Lincoln’s one. Sexton, who had five 3’s in the game, and Bryson Tucker each had two 3’s in the first.

Wayne, which finished at 52 percent overall from the field (24-for-46), distanced itself from Lincoln in the second quarter, outpointing the Patriots 16-2 in the final 5:02 of the first half to post a 38-27 halftime lead. Sexton had six points in the run, Mason Burchett and Spencer each had four points and Gehring had two.

Tucker and Spencer scored back-to-back buckets to open the third quarter for the game’s largest lead, 42-27.

Lincoln shot 46 percent from the field overall, going 24-for-52. The Patriots were 6-for-11 at the foul line. The Cardinals were 0-for-4 from the line.

“I wish we’d come ready,” said Jackson. “We’ve had 38 practices and yesterday was the first one that has not been good … We sent them home early yesterday. It was just that bad. And we started the game tonight playing like that. I’m real happy for our kids and proud of their effort tonight and how they battled back to get the win.”

At Wayne Co.

Lincoln 16 11 15 14 – 56

Wayne 18 20 9 8 – 55

LINCOLN (3-0) – Bryston Alcorn 9, Elijah Frye 14, Jaxon Smith 7, Baylor Mattingly 7, Riley Bodner 19.

WAYNE (1-2) – Kameron Gehring 4, Mason Burchett 10, Thomas Spencer 12, Reese Sexton 21, Bryson Tucker 8.