Ypsilanti Lincoln braces for title defense with tough final week of regular season
YPSILANTI – Jesse Davis knows it will be a challenge to bring Ypsilanti Lincoln’s hoop team back to the top of the mountain.
The Railsplitters have had a goal on their backs all season not just because they have the best basketball player in the country to Emoni Bates, but because they are the defending Division 1 champions.
All eyes were on Lincoln and the Railsplitters have had their share of ups and downs this season, sweeping the Southeastern White-Conference but falling in their two biggest non-conference games against River Rouge and Benton Harbor.
And before Lincoln enters the playoffs to defend his state title, he will have a tough final week of the regular season against two of the state’s top teams in Ann Arbor Huron (18-1) and Grand Rapids Catholic. Central (17-2).
“It’s a great test,” said Davis. “Last year we finished with Hanover-Horton, which was a very disciplined offensive team; just stuck to what they’re doing, and I think Huron and GRCC will be the same.
Huron is ranked No.6 in Division 1 by The Associated Press, while GRCC is ranked No.2 in Division 2 – behind Benton Harbor.
Lincoln (16-2) will face Huron for the first time Tuesday at the Convocation Center in Eastern Michigan and close the regular season against GRCC on Thursday at Ypsilanti Lincoln.
“I think they’re going to test us to the extent that they do what they do, and they stick with it,” Davis said of the last two teams on the schedule. “They are great defensive teams and they will be well trained so I think it will be a good test for us going into the tournament. I just can’t wait to see where we stand against these kinds of teams.
Lincoln only has one starter from last year’s champion team at Bates, who was in tears, and this year’s squad features a slew of new faces and young players.
Inexperience has shown itself and the time has come for everything to fall into place.
“We show flashes of lightning, but we also show flashes of immaturity – a lot,” Davis said. “With all these seniors last year, it was easy to reach them. It was kind of a sense of urgency the whole time, so right now that’s where I’m heading with these kids now.
“We had 18 games with ups and downs with the way we were playing, but right now we just have to click, play the game the right way. We have to be locked in our scout reports and understand what we have to do in every game. I think everything will be fine.
The goal is to get back to the championship, but first the Railsplitters will have to go through a tough final week followed by a district that includes Huron and rival Ypsilanti, among other strong teams.
“I can’t be too worried about that because it’s one game at a time when you get to the tournament,” said Davis. “We want to come back (to the championship) of course. I just preach unity to our children and work hard for each other. This is the most important thing for me. If we work hard for each other and play solid defense and push hard every night, I think we’ll have a chance to win.