With a towel wrapped around his neck, Holy Cross star forward Sylven Landesberg could only watch his team get dismantled in the opening minutes of their game against Lincoln on Saturday night.
Those first few minutes were a sign of a long evening to come for the Knights, as Lincoln was able to pull away early and beat Holy Cross 81-60.
The Virginia-bound Landesberg didn't start because of illness, however he came off the bench and played for most of the ball game. However, while the forward was seated Lincoln jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead. The Railsplitters used their size advantage early and often, as senior big-men Justin Greene and James Padgett were thrown the ball down low to exploit their size advantage over Holy Cross.
On the other end, it was clear that Landesberg wasn't playing at 100% and the rest of his Knights teammates struggled to find any source of offense. Lincoln threw a triangle-and-two defense at head coach Paul Gilvary's squad, which seemed to stifle the Knights. The PSAL school upped their lead to 17-2 after Padgett converted a lay-up inside with just over four minutes to go in the opening stanza. However, Landesberg soon found a rhythm offensively along with fellow senior Blaise Ffrench and when Lincoln's Lance Stephenson picked up his second foul with 39 seconds left in the first quarter, the Knights began to see some light on the horizon. The Queens school ended the first quarter down 25-15, however there was hope as Stephenson was on the bench with foul trouble.
The Queens school and the Brooklyn school went back and forth throughout the second quarter, as Holy Cross was able to get stops on the defensive end but few good looks offensively. Head coach Dwayne Morton's Lincoln team did a good job maintaining a double-digit lead throughout the second frame, however the CHSAA school chipped away at the margin towards the latter part of the quarter. A floater by Tyshawn Russell at the first half buzzer cut the Lincoln lead to 38-31 heading into halftime. The ailing Landesberg led all scorers at the half with 12 points, while the Lincoln attack was led by Justin Greene with 10 points.
Lincoln remained confident as they came out for the second half knowing that they would have their junior phenom back on the floor. Stephenson came back and made an immediate impact, as he used all facets of his game to bolster Lincoln and increase their lead over the Knights. His jump shot, in particular, was deadly on this night on the court at Hofstra University. "I've been working on picking spots on the floor to take shots from, sort of like Kobe (Bryant) does," said Stephenson following the game. The forward and the rest of the Railsplitters were able to get back into a groove both offensively and defensively, as they outscored the Knights 21-11 in the third quarter and led comfortably by a score of 59-42 heading into the fourth and final quarter.
Coach Morton's squad shared the ball well throughout the fourth quarter, as they had been doing the entire game. The Railsplitters would put the game away with a run mid-way through the fourth quarter, capped off by a Darwin "Buddha" Ellis lay-up with 2:45 that gave Lincoln a 74-57 lead. The PSAL squad would cruise from there, as they went on to win by a final score of 81-60. Lance Stephenson, who sat for a major portion of the first half with foul trouble, still managed to be the game's high scorer with 25 points, while Justin Greene and James Padgett both chipped in with 14 points apiece. Holy Cross was led by Sylven Landesberg, who scored 21 points in the losing effort.
Following the game, Stephenson down played the fact that the ACC-bound Landesberg was sick. "I come to play no matter what," said the man people call 'Born Ready,' as he added "I don't know whether he was sick or something, but whenever I play him he always claims that he's hurt or sick," said the prideful junior.
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