Even Shakeir Morrison had doubts.
Morrison, a senior swingman on the Abraham Lincoln High School boys basketball team, closely follows the Philadelphia high school basketball scene. And you don’t have to tell him about the reputation of the Roman Catholic program. So when the Railsplitters drew the Cahillites in the District 12 6A title game, which also serves as the city championship, he knew it would take an extraordinary effort to bring home the trophy.
And that’s exactly what they got.
Lincoln defeated Roman Catholic 86–76 in the title game at Southern High School. It’s the first time somebody other than the Cahillites won the big school city championship since 2012 and the first time a Public League team brought home the championship since Frankford won in 2011.
“I’m not sure there were a lot of people who believed we could do it, I know because I knew they were tough,” said Morrison, who used his ball handling to help Lincoln turn the ball over just four times to Roman’s 16. “We play better when everyone is doubting us. We believe, that’s all that matters.
“I think people underestimate us all the time because we weren’t known as a basketball school. But we have a good program now.”
It took a balanced effort to knock the Cahillites off their perch.
Jahi Randall scored 20 points, Khalif Mears added 18 and Tyree Corbett poured in 16 to help the Railsplitters win a rematch of last year’s city title game. But this year, the Railsplitters were more prepared heading into the postseason.
“We were good last year, but we didn’t have a lot of games against good teams because we played in the C Division,” said Morrison, who lives near Frankford and Cottman. “Those teams were all right, but this year we played a lot better competition. We moved up to the B Division so all the teams were good that we played and then we played great competition in our other games.
“Playing Roman is fun. They’re really good. We knew we had to keep the ball from (Seth Lundy) because he’s really good. If you stop him, you can beat them. They have good other players, but he’s their guy.”
Beating Roman puts Lincoln in a great position. Last year as the №2 seed from District 12, Lincoln was able to win a first-round game before falling in the second round. This year, the goal is to make it much further, and it should be an easier route.
The Railsplitters begin state tournament play on Saturday when they meet Upper Darby in the first round. Tipoff is slated for 5 p.m., also at Southern.
“Last year, we had a chance to win, but I think the game got away from us,” said Morrison, the third-leading scorer on the Railsplitters. “Getting that experience was good. Beating Roman was good, too. This was a big win. It’s the kind of win people will talk about for generations.”
Lincoln has given a lot of teams problems this year, and the biggest reason for its success is because the team has a lot of depth. It also helps that most of the players are versatile. Morrison believes that’s why the team will be so tough to beat as the state tournament begins.
“We can switch five guys and be just as good, so nobody gets tired,” Morrison said. “We have a lot of guys who can score and we have a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things. I can play any position, one through four.”
Morrison is proud of what his team has accomplished so far, but he’s also happy about his improvement in other areas.
During his sophomore year, Morrison was unable to play for the Railsplitters because he needed to focus on his studies. Now, as great as he’s doing on the hardwood, he’s doing even better in the classroom.
“I worked hard and now I have a 4.0,” Morrison said. “I’m proud of winning in basketball, but I want to go to college, a good college, not a corny one. I’m more proud of the 4.0.
“I’m not sure where I’m going to go, but I definitely want to play basketball. I think I’m going to study business, something in business. I’ve always wanted to start my own business, make money that way.”
Morrison has also made great strides in other areas.
Always a talented basketball player, when he was younger, there were times when Morrison would let his emotions get the best of him. This year, as a senior, he’s served as a leader for the Railsplitters.
“Before, there were times I was a knucklehead at times,” said Morrison, who is a captain at Lincoln. “I’m lucky because all of the coaches helped me. They love me and always had my back so I love them and always have their back. We have good leaders on this team, and we need that to show the young guys what to do.
“I’m really happy we won this game, and I’m happy we have other games. Lincoln has a good basketball program and beating (Roman) lets everyone know we’re getting better all the time.”