ROCHESTER -- By the end of Lincoln vs. Eisenhower, neither team found a finishing flourish and neither coach seemed particularly happy on the sidelines.
But the lead the Railers' had built up in the middle two quarters was enough to hold on in the final day of the non-city Central State Eight tournament, 43-38, on Saturday.
For much of the time Lincoln (14-7) surged to a 16-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, Eisenhower (13-7) coach Rodney Walker sat in shock from what he was watching.
"No rhythm, whatsoever," he said. "We went from, yesterday, executed the half court being the best team I've seen execute in a long time, man. Surprised ol' coach. Today, I don't know what the heck we were doing."
There were moments of brilliance from Eisenhower. The Panthers scored 11 straight points to start the fourth to bring Lincoln's lead to five, a margin that was still there with two minutes left. The Railers gave Eisenhower one opportunity after another with a stretch of free throws where they went 1 of 4 from the line, including missing the front-end of two 1 and 1s.
"They upped the tempo there in the fourth quarter and turned us over a lot," Lincoln coach Neil Alexander said. "We allowed them to get back into the game. But you knew they were going to, they're a very good basketball team."
For Walker, it wasn't so much the final minutes of offense that were the problem. It was allowing open 3-pointers -- Lincoln shot 9 of 16 -- a slow press and little help-side defense. Lincoln's Bryson Kirby drove the dagger in the most, hitting five 3s for a team-high 15 points.
"Too many missed assignments, defensively," he said. "I'm not concerned about offense. What irks me is you're not doing your job defensively.
"Everywhere. It was everywhere. I see guys a second late, I see guys getting beat off the dribble."
There's about a month to figure it out before the postseason starts and Eisenhower possibly sees teams like Lincoln and the like again. And Walker tried to keep it in perspective as well -- Eisenhower's two recent losses were by three points and now five.
"It's fixable, and we still had a chance to win the game," he said. "We turned the ball so many times early with no pressure on us. With that in mind, we're still there to win it."
MacArthur 58, Jacksonville 55
With a 1:18 left, MacArthur's Amir Brummett stood on the left side of the court, waiting for a defender that never bodied him up.
So he waited.
A minute and nine seconds later, he unfroze, found his brother Armon on the right side for a three that sailed through easily.
MacArthur (12-7) used patience quite a bit in Saturday's win, and it's something they've been working on for a while.
"They've been working on it and it showed today," MacArthur coach Ron Ingram said. "One day in practice we worked on it for 30 minutes straight without shooting the basketball."
There were several other times the Generals successfully stalled late in the game -- although none came close to that length. MacArthur held onto its lead for the entire fourth quarter with Amir Brummett scoring 18 points and Armon Brummett scoring 17.
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Still the victors
Eisenhower lost to Lincoln, and yet, somehow and perhaps fitting of the night, Eisenhower still won the tournament trophy.
The first piece fell into place as MacArthur beat Jacksonville 60-58 to give Eisenhower a chance at being the only 4-1 team in the round robin tournament. But after the loss, MacArthur, Eisenhower, Jacksonville and Lincoln all tied at 3-2. After reading the fine print, the tiebreaker came down to free throw percentage. The Panthers, which shot 9 of 11 on Saturday and 69.5 percent for the tournament, edged out Lincoln (65.9 percent).
Eisenhower had to wait a while to find out. They had to wait after the Rochester vs. Glenwood nightcap.
While the Brummetts deserve the praise for the play -- their defense is much better this year as well -- a big chunk of the reason MacArthur can operate the way they do is because of Randy Thaxton.
The senior point guard allows them to play off the ball and find open areas on the floor to either charge from or hit the 3-pointer.
"He's our main guy," Ingram said of Thaxton. "He's a senior leader on the floor and he's been on varsity all four years he's been here. He knows exactly what I want. He knows who to get the basketball to.
"He knows every offense that we run, even if we're stalling. He knows how to penetrate -- that allows the Brummett boys to roam free and catch and shoot. Because of him, the Brummett boys shine."
Under the gun
Kirby shot well from 3, and he did it under pressure.
At the end of the second and third quarters, Lincoln held onto the ball for a while, eventually setting up Kirby for a buzzer-beater twice.
"We have not closed out quarters, so that was a plus for us," Alexander said. "We had not started quarters well, and the second and third quarter, I thought we did."
Alexander seemed a little nostalgic moments after the non-city tournament, the last Lincoln will play in because of the move to the Apollo conference next year.
"We like playing this time of year," he said. "Kids would rather play now than practice. And that's why we really like this tournament. It's our last year."