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Lincoln Park edged in district semis by 20-1 Crestwood PHOTO GALLERY/TOUT VIDEO

  • Despite a strong effort against the tough Crestwood Chargers Wednesday night, Lincoln Park fell 44-40 in the district semifinals. Photo gallery by Tom Alexander

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Crestwood Coach Mike Bright was an assistant coach in Lincoln Park for six years, so he knew just how hard the Railsplitters played on a nightly basis.

On Wednesday night, the Lincoln Park boys’ basketball team played his 20-1 Chargers about as hard as they could, giving Crestwood everything they could handle before falling just short on their own home court.

The Chargers trumped the Railsplitters by a final score of 44-40 on Wednesday, and will now do battle with Allen Park on Friday night for the district championship.

“Coach Tobin does a great job with Lincoln Park,” Bright said. “We knew it was going to be a battle the whole way. We had a good little run early; we were up 10 or so. But I told my team ‘hey, don’t get satisfied. Trust me; these guys are going to bring it.’ It was a great defensive game.”

The Chargers went up 17-5 early in the second quarter but they couldn’t pull away from their opponents because they got into too much foul trouble.

Lincoln Park, though, hit only 6-of-12 free throws in the second quarter. They were able to cut a 12-point deficit down to four, and went on an 8-2 run at one point, but they still couldn’t take full advantage of their first-half opportunities.

“We’ve gotten off to slow starts all year,” said Lincoln Park Coach Todd Tobin. “It seemed like we were stuck on five points forever. But we got close before the half. It was a real grind-it-out game. I know they don’t think they played their best, we didn’t play our best, but it was really a war.”

Crestwood came out of the half up 21-17 and that’s when the Abduljami brothers, Billy (senior) and Esa (junior), put the team on their backs.

The Abduljamis accounted for all 10 of Crestwood’s points between them in the third quarter, which went a long way in staving off a surging second-half Lincoln Park team.

“Billy and Esa have been great all year,” Bright said. “They attack the basket so well, they defend well, and they’re just such a huge part of our team.”

Esa Abduljami drove to the lane and scored on a layup in traffic in the waning moments of the third quarter. The basket capped off a 6-0 Charger run after the Railsplitters squandered multiple chances to tie the game when Crestwood held a small 25-23 lead.

“We got close but we were just never able to take the lead in the game, not even once,” Tobin said. “We had some empty trips on offense which you can’t have against such a good team. I don’t know what we shot from the field but it was pretty ugly. We were waiting for a few shots to fall and sort of get into rhythm on offense but it just never came.”

The Chargers took a 31-23 lead into the fourth quarter but the Railsplitters still wouldn’t quit.

Hilbert Banks and Tywan Cage of Lincoln Park combined for 11 fourth-quarter points, which pulled the Railsplitters to within one point with under a minute remaining in the game.

Up 39-38, Ayman Youssef was fouled with 44 seconds left and calmly knocked down a pair of free throws.

With only 24 seconds left and down by three, Banks couldn’t hit a reverse layup for Lincoln Park which forced the Railsplitters to again foul Youssef, and again the senior drained a clutch pair of free throws.

“Ayman’s been a senior leader for me all year. Those were huge free throws,” Bright said. “We went to our spread in those final 30 or 40 seconds or so and I said ‘layups only or we’re shooting free throws. No jumpshots.’ And I said the most important thing for us to do was to protect that basketball, and we did that.”

Lincoln Park couldn’t make a play down four with fewer than ten seconds to go and had to watch Crestwood celebrate on their home floor.

The loss marked the Railsplitters’ fourth defeat of four points or less. They finish off the season with a final record of 7-14.

“We got five seniors; I love them to death, they’re great kids,” Tobin said of his outgoing seniors. “And then moving into next year we’ll start a couple juniors, a sophomore, and then JV’s got a strong team on the way up. But, it hasn’t quite sunk in that the year’s over yet.”

Banks paced Lincoln Park with nine points in the loss. Christian Walker led the Railsplitters in rebounds with eight.

For the winning Chargers, Esa Abduljami scored 16 points, while his brother, Billy, scored 11. Youssef snatched nine rebounds for Crestwood, and Ricky Rojeski grabbed another seven.

Bright said he expects a very good game from Allen Park come Friday night.

“They got a real good point guard, we got a real good point guard,” Bright said. “They got a real good wing player; we got some good wing players with the Abduljamis. They got size inside, we got size inside. So I think it will be another grind of a game like tonight. No one’s going to skate away with it.”

Last Updated: 3/6/2014 3:26:42 PM EST