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Cougars hang tough in loss to Lancers

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By Brian Forbes

Rather than the washed out rap music, the Evergreen boys basketball team should have warmed up Tuesday night to the theme from Mission: Impossible.

Evergreen was without three of its top seven players: Ryan Haebe (disciplinary), Mike Philbin (illness) and Joe Beaudin (illness).

On the other end of the court was defending Class 4A state champion Abraham Lincoln, with an impressive lineup that included beefy players at 6-foot-6, 6-8 and 6-11.

The Cougars’ tallest player? David Schultz at 6-6.

In what should have been a rout, the Cougars turned into a close game until the very end as they fell 63-49 in their final tuneup prior to the start of Jefferson County League play.

Charlie Blackstock scored a game-high 20 points and Will Vickstrom and junior guard Kurt Dieter added 11 points apiece for the Cougars (7-7), who trailed most the game but were always one or two baskets away.

“I really felt we were right within striking distance the whole time,” said Cougars coach Scott Haebe, who was pleased with his team’s effort.

Predictably, Evergreen’s lack of size hurt it the most. The Cougars’ tall tandem of Blackstock and Schultz accounted for nine of Evergreen’s 14 rebounds. The Lancers, meanwhile, grabbed 35 boards, which led to easy baskets inside and few second chances for the Cougars.

All-state forward Francisco Cruz and guard Dre Calloway led the Lancers (10-5) with 19 points apiece and combined for 14 rebounds. The Lancers had to get it done inside as they shot 0-for-8 from 3-point range.

But what kept the Lancers upright and prevented them from just pounding the ball inside was the strong play of Schultz, Blackstock and the rotation of the perimeter defenders.

“They had to work for it and we kept them honest,” Schultz said.

After trailing by nine points late in the first quarter, the Cougars harassed the Lancers for most the game, never allowing them to get on enough of a run to put Evergreen away.

That run appeared to begin early in the fourth, as the Lancers went up 46-36 on Calloway’s free throws.

But the Cougars answered with a jumper and later two free throws by Chris Lemaster, a scooping layup by Blackstock and a 3-pointer from Dieter to cut the deficit to 52-49 with 2:02 remaining.

Evergreen, however, would turn it over on its subsequent possession and never find the basket again as the Lancers pulled away for their sixth consecutive victory.

Abraham Lincoln 20-11-13-19—63

Evergreen 15-10-11-13—49

Abraham Lincoln: Cruz 7 5-5 19, Torres 1 6-6 8, Williams 2 1-2 5, Calloway 7 5-8 19, Carrasco 2 0-0 4, Rangel 2 0-0 4, Rodriguez 0 0-1 0.

Evergreen: Dieter 5 0-0 11, Dodge 0 0-0 0, Vickstrom 4 2-3 11, Blackstock 6 6-6 20, Schultz 0 0-0 0, Tucker 0 0-0 0, Lemaster 1 2-2 4, Hudak 1 0-0 3.

3-point goals: Blackstock 2, Dieter, Vickstrom, Hudak.