Lincoln makes statement in win

Con­es­toga killers: Nas­sir Cole­man helped Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln win its first state play­off game by down­ing Con­es­toga 66-60 on Sat­urday. MARIA YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO

Nas­sir Cole­man kept a busy sched­ule all sum­mer.

The Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln High School seni­or spent the lazy days of sum­mer work­ing out with the bas­ket­ball team in the morn­ing, spent af­ter­noons run­ning and lift­ing with his friends on the foot­ball team and then he worked nights as a sales as­so­ci­ate selling shoes.

At the time, he thought he was do­ing it to make sure he had a sol­id seni­or year.

He had no idea at the time he was on the verge of two his­tor­ic sea­sons.

“I knew we had tal­ent in both sports, but you nev­er think it’s go­ing to be that good,” said Cole­man, who helped Lin­coln win its first foot­ball play­off game since 1989 dur­ing the fall. “Foot­ball was great. We did things nobody ex­pec­ted us to.”

And nobody ex­pec­ted the Railsplit­ters to still be play­ing in­to the third week of March, but that’s ex­actly what they’re do­ing.

Thanks to a bal­anced ef­fort, Lin­coln was able to knock off Con­es­toga 66-60 in over­time Sat­urday in the Class AAAAAA play­offs at South Phil­adelphia High School. It was the first time Lin­coln won a state play­off game.

“I can’t be­lieve it, I still don’t be­lieve we did it,” said Cole­man, who scored two points and was a dis­rupt­ive force all night on de­fense. “All sea­son, one of our as­sist­ant coaches (Jamel Lind­sey) would yell, ‘States!’ I didn’t be­lieve it. Now we’re all yelling it. We didn’t know we could do it, but as we got bet­ter and bet­ter, now we all be­lieve.”

They have their fans be­liev­ing, too.

If you’re a long­time fan of the Railsplit­ters, you prob­ably re­mem­ber the team com­pet­ing in empty gym­nas­i­ums.

And even last year, when Lin­coln was start­ing to im­prove, Cole­man had a tough time re­cruit­ing his friends to come to see the team play.

“People would al­ways tell us we were go­ing to lose and we didn’t have a good team,” Cole­man said. “But the cul­ture has changed. Every­one now loves to come. Last year, we were play­ing in front of 20 fans. Now we’re pack­ing them in.

“And be­fore, people would say, ‘You’re go­ing to lose.’ Now, they tell us we’re go­ing to win. It’s fun to see how we changed every­one’s out­look. We changed the cul­ture.”

Cole­man has had a huge role in the Railsplit­ters’ re­sur­gence in both foot­ball and bas­ket­ball.

Dur­ing the fall, Cole­man plays wideout. In his winter sport, he doesn’t really have a po­s­i­tion. He’s Lin­coln’s swiss army knife.

“We have a big lineup and a small lineup, and I play com­pletely dif­fer­ent roles on them,” Cole­man said. “In the big lineup, I play point guard. When we go to our small lineup, I play un­der­neath. I don’t care what po­s­i­tion I play. I’m not a guard, I’m not a big guy, I’m a match­up prob­lem. I try to give the oth­er team prob­lems.”

It def­in­itely helps that Cole­man has the size (he stands 6-foot-4) and ath­leti­cism to play any­where on the floor. The real reas­on he can do it is be­cause when Lin­coln coach Al Brown talks, his star pu­pil is al­ways listen­ing.

“I know every po­s­i­tion on the floor, everything,” Cole­man said. “I’m a stu­dent of the game. I listen to everything he says. You can learn so much by listen­ing. I try to be like a coach on the court. When we need to do something, I make sure I know what we’re do­ing.”

That’s the kind of play­er Brown likes hav­ing on his squad.

“He’s a great lead­er, he provides a lot of seni­or lead­er­ship,” Brown said. “And he’s a great de­fend­er. He has a huge wing­span and he uses that to play de­fense. He puts in a lot of work on the de­fens­ive end.”

While his primary con­cern is nail­ing down a state cham­pi­on­ship, Cole­man is also do­ing his best to find a school where he can con­tin­ue his bas­ket­ball ca­reer. 

“I want to study com­mu­nic­a­tions and hope­fully be a bas­ket­ball ana­lyst,” Cole­man said. “I want to do something where I can be around sports. Foot­ball or bas­ket­ball would be good. I love both of them and I want to be around sports for a job.”

If he con­tin­ues to play the way he did on Sat­urday, a school will be lucky to get him.

And while his fu­ture school is im­port­ant, right now he’s wor­ried about the task at hand.

In fact, the en­tire team is fo­cused on the next win.

“The play­ers de­serve all of the cred­it,” Brown said. “Hats off to them. We come up with a plan, but they go out and ex­ecute it. We ask a lot of them, and they come through. They are the reas­on we won today.”

Cole­man is op­tim­ist­ic the up­ward trend will con­tin­ue. He’s leav­ing after this year, but the Railsplit­ters have a lot of young play­ers who could make the team for­mid­able for years.

And next year, they’ll have a new fan in the stands, no re­cruit­ing ne­ces­sary.

“We still have games left this year, but we’re go­ing to be good for a while,” Cole­man said. “It’s all about the cul­ture. The at­ti­tude. Last year, it was like we were wait­ing to lose. Now we think we’re go­ing to win every game.

“This was a great year, and it’s the start of great things. I’ll be watch­ing them. We’re go­ing to be good for a while.” ••

In oth­er boys games

Arch­bish­op Ry­an 79, Park­land 55:  Ma­tiss Ku­lack­ovs­kis scored  25 points and Izai­ah Brock­ing­ton ad­ded 22 as the Raid­ers won their first state play­off game in school his­tory. 

Point guard Amin Bry­ant also had a strong out­ing, scor­ing nine points with nine re­bounds and 10 as­sists.

The Raid­ers will move on to face Cent­ral Dauph­in East, which up­set Abing­ton in the first round, on Wed­nes­day night at 6 p.m. in the first half of a double­head­er at Garden Spot in New Hol­land.

Ry­an, which im­proved to 22-5 with the vic­tory, will play in the first half of a double­head­er. 

The Railsplit­ters will play in the second game of the night. ••

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