Lincoln's come-from-behind, 82-68 win at No. 4 Grant on Wednesday night could mark a turning point for the promising Cardinals.
Lincoln trailed by 20 points in the first half, and 15 at halftime, before outscoring the Generals 35-12 in the third quarter and pulling away in the 6A Portland Interscholastic League boys basketball game.
It is the signature win of the season for the Cardinals, who are 10-4 overall and 4-1 in the PIL in their first season under coach Heather Seely-Roberts, the first woman to lead a boys big-school team in state history.
“On paper, that's probably the first team that's better than us that we beat,” she said.
Seely-Roberts – who brought her junior twin sons, Moroni and Malachi, to Lincoln from Yamhill-Carlton, where they won the 3A culminating week tournament last season – didn't hold back in voicing her displeasure to the Cardinals after a lackluster first half. She implored her players to stand up to the physical Generals.
“I gave a very impassioned halftime speech,” she said. “We were soft on defense, soft on offense. I went off at halftime that they needed to toughen up, and they were getting pushed around, bullied around. I was screaming so loud that people that were using the bathroom could hear me, my mom said.”
The Cardinals turned up their intensity in the third quarter and took over the game. They won despite using a six-man rotation because they were missing four players due to COVID-19 protocols.
“We tightened up our defense, and we were a lot stronger going to the basket,” Heather Seely-Roberts said. “They really took the challenge on and stepped up.”
Moroni Seely-Roberts, a 6-foot-6 post, had 32 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals. Malachi Seely-Roberts, a 6-8 point guard, had 15 points and four assists. Senior guard Sawyer Heald (14 points, five assists) and 6-10 junior post Graham Eikenberry (11 points, eight rebounds) also made key contributions.
Lincoln has won four consecutive PIL games since losing to 4A No. 6 Cascade 78-76 and 5A No. 3 Crescent Valley 73-72 in its final two games at the Capitol City Classic during the holiday break.
After that tournament, which capped a stretch of six games in eight days, the Cardinals were able to get 10 practices before diving back into PIL play with an 89-42 win over Jefferson. The practice time was critical considering the team overhauled its roster after finishing 2-15 last season.
“When we lost to Crescent Valley and Cascade, it was disappointing that we lost, but we're a team that just has a ton of potential to get better because we've only been together since November,” Heather Seely-Roberts said. “I think that's what we're seeing now.”
The Cardinals built confidence with a 107-98, double-overtime win over Wells in the PIL Showcase at Franklin on Saturday. They made 19 of 36 shots from three-point range, getting seven triples each from Heald and Malachi Seely-Roberts.
Heald scored 16 of his 26 points after regulation in the win. Malachi Seely-Roberts had 22 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists and Moroni Seely-Roberts had 31 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.
The Seely-Roberts twins have fared well in their transition to 6A. For the season, Moroni is averaging 25 points and nine rebounds and Malachi is putting up 13 points and six assists.
“It's going very well,” Heather said. “Moroni has had an easier adjustment because he's a little stronger and more physical. Malachi is doing well, too, it's just the 6A level is more physical overall than the 3A level, so it's getting used to the physical play night in and night out.”
They have meshed well with the two returning starters from last season – Heald and senior wing Trevor Dean – and Eikenberry, a transfer from Central Catholic. Eikenberry is averaging 12 points and eight rebounds; Heald is at 11 points and four assists.
“We've really enjoyed the move,” Heather said. “We miss Y-C, but the basketball, just the fact that we're playing more competitive teams every night has been a good adjustment for the twins. We really like the kids here at Lincoln. They've really bought into what we're doing.”