Loeffler's Link

Chris Leuckel

Lincoln junior L'Kielynn Taylor looks for the ball during the first half of Saturday's game with Washburn at Jason Gym.

Struggles continue: Blue Tigers
fall to Ichabods, lose 5th straight

Feb. 23, 2019

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. --- The start was exactly the same as the first meeting, Lincoln jumping out to a 15-3 lead over Washburn.

The final score was almost exactly the same, 75-73 on Jan. 31 in Topeka, 75-70 on Saturday at Jason Gym.

But the games could not have been more different, because this time, it was Washburn with the 75, not Lincoln.

And there's no bigger difference than winning and losing.

As a result, this painful losing streak for the Blue Tigers continues --- and none hurt worse than this one.

Washburn washed away the early 15-3 deficit to take a 37-36 halftime lead, then closed the game with a 9-2 run in the final 79 seconds to hand Lincoln its fifth straight loss, 75-70.

The disappointment was etched deeply into John Moseley's soul after the game.

"It's a tough way to lose a game," the Lincoln coach said. "It takes a lot of mental resolve to move past mistakes, move past losses, so you don't develop that mindset, Here we go again.

"We just have some guys who are afraid to make a mistake right now, and we have other guys who are trying too hard to make something happen when nothing's really there."

Then, Moseley turned from coach to philosopher.

"I believe that sports teach life lessons," he said. "These guys are going to be out on their own in a few years, they're going to have a tough day at work, the car's going to break down on the way home, and the wife's going to call and want you to pick something up, and you're not sure if you've got enough money in your pocket.

"But then when you walk in the front door, your kid just wants you to be dad. When everything's tough and you feel like, How much more can I take?, you've just got to keep going.

"That's what we're doing. But right now --- and I believe in the character of these players --- we're in a fragile state and need something good to happen."

Certainly, something good happened to start this game.

Amariontez Ivory hit a pair of 3-pointers in the early salvo, which left the Blue Tigers (16-10, 9-8 MIAA) with a 15-3 lead just over four minutes in. The lead was still 22-15 on a follow-shot by Grant Olsson with nine minutes left in the half.

If you're looking for bright spots, it was those two seniors --- Ivory finished 5-of-10 beyond the arc and dropped in a game-high 21 points, while Olsson totaled 19 points and nine rebounds.

"It was good to see Tez shoot the ball as well as he did," Moseley said of Ivory. "And Grant Olsson is ending the season on a tear. Grant's been in the gym more than any player in our program the past two years and to see the fruits of his labor paying off, I couldn't be prouder of him."

The Ichabods (21-5, 14-3) --- who are going in the opposite direction of the Blue Tigers with seven straight wins --- bounced back to take a one-point lead at the break, setting up an intense second half.

With the energy swelling both on and off the floor, the Ichabods held a four-point lead at 61-57 with 6 1/2 minutes left, before the Blue Tigers put together an 8-0 run in 90 seconds to lead 65-61 with five minutes left.

The run was capped on a dunk by Jonell Burton and his steal and score, and Jason Gym was on fire.

"I felt pretty good at that point," Moseley said, "that your guys were going to make winning plays. We were up four, I thought we had something going."

Lincoln had a 68-66 lead and the ball with 1:27 left, before a back-breaking turnover led to a 3-pointer by David Salach just eight seconds later to give Washburn the lead for good at 69-68.

"We turned it over, they got it in transition, and (Salach) hits a 3," Moseley said. "Just a brutal, brutal, brutal time to turn it over."

The Ichabods missed three of four throws at one stretch in the final 20 seconds to give Lincoln a chance, and with the game sitting at 73-70 with six seconds left, the Blue Tigers forced on turnover on a five-second count.

But the last chance, 3-point attempt by Ivory was off the mark to basically end it.

"I thought we had a great look with 3 seconds left," Moseley said, "it just didn't go.

"But being in the streak we're in, I was very proud of the way we competed tonight. We made some bad decisions, but we competed our tails off. These guys are still fighting."

The Blue Tigers now sit in fifth place in the conference, but here's some good news --- they've clinched a spot in the MIAA postseason tournament. They'll finish the regular season with home games against Southwest Baptist at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Central Missouri at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

"We've just got to get back to the point where we're putting everything together," Moseley said. "We need to remember what it feels like to win, because we really need some momentum as the calendar prepares to flip to March."

Very true. Because even though it's still February, this is already a maddening experience for the Blue Tigers and their fans.

But for all the wrong reasons.