LINCOLN — Strong defense, strong rebounding and a strong second quarter helped the Lincoln Cardinals open the basketball season with a 63-49 win over Sturgeon on Saturday.
The Cardinals got off to a sluggish start but recovered to take a 12-10 lead after one and then outscored the Bulldogs 22-11 in the seconds quarter.
“It feels good to get back into the high-paced game of basketball,” said Mason Sanders. “Football’s a little slower pace. I didn’t realize how much I missed basketball.”
Lincoln trailed 4-0 and 9-5 in the game but tied it with 2:25 left in the first quarter on an Aaron Yearout 3-pointer. Sanders then added a 3-pointer of his own to give the Cardinals their first lead of the young season.
Sturgeon tied the game early in the second quarter but back-to-back baskets from Lane Johnson and Connor Spunaugle put Lincoln in front for good. A Tyler Kroenke steal and layup extended the lead to 20-12 and Trevor Kroenke drove the lane moments later to make it 24-13.
“First game of the year and I think it really took us a quarter and a half before we really started to play aggressive offensively,” said Lincoln coach Tyler Burke. “We were real timid. Those guys were pressing us pretty hard, trapping us. We played a little timid in the beginning but we finally played with some confidence and it really got us going.”
Lincoln controlled the boards, pulling in 24 offensive rebounds which led to 16 second-chance points.
“I told our guys our depth is important to us and they were all attacking the glass, attacking the rim,” Burke said. “We’re early in the season here, we’re not really sure how we’re going to shoot the ball, so we attack the basket and attack for rebounds and it worked out.”
Lincoln’s defense made life difficult for Sturgeon, who committed 16 turnovers in the game.
“We pressured the ball really well,” Sanders said. “We got a good amount of steals and that’s what we were looking for, getting transition, getting layups, getting threes to our 3-point shooters and we executed that and made shots and scored a good amount of points.”Trevor Kroenke finished with 15 points to lead the Cardinals. Ryan Eckhoff scored 11 in the fourth quarter alone and finished with 13. Sanders had 11.
Chance Wells led Sturgeon with 20.
Eric Ingles can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @Eric_Ingles