After Lincoln basketball started focusing on the little stuff, Emeuel Charleston noticed a huge improvement in their playing.
Like all teams, the players were worried about stats.
When the Abraham Lincoln High School boys basketball team first got together, the team would trade stories about their gaudy numbers. The more points, the louder the players would boast.
At the time, the Railsplitters were proving they were great players, but then it all changed.
“I remember coach asking us, “What about your defensive numbers?’ ” Lincoln junior guard Emeuel Charleston said. “That’s when we stopped worrying about our numbers and started worrying about our defense. This was really early in the year. Once we focused on the little things and stopped worrying about our points, we started playing better. We started playing a lot better.”
The Railsplitters aren’t worrying about much these days, but on Wednesday, they’ll have to worry about getting to Hershey.
It took overtime, but Lincoln defeated Hazleton 76–74 in a Class 6A semifinal at Freedom High on Saturday.
Charleston, who played his usual steady defense, scored eight points. Khalif Meares scored a team-high 20 and Shakeir Morrison added 17. Sanhei Day also contributed with 10 more.
With the win, Lincoln goes on to Hershey, where it will meet fellow District 12 team Roman Catholic, a team that also went overtime to best Pine-Richland in the other semifinal. The game will air live on PCN.
This will be a rematch of the city championship game. Lincoln won that one against the Catholic League champions 86–76 earlier this month. Somebody from Philadelphia will be hoisting a state championship, and Charleston likes his team’s chances.
“Roman is really good, they are always one of the best teams,” Charleston said. “But I’m glad we beat them last time. They beat us last year and the year before, so now we know we can beat them if we play our way.”
The Lincoln way is fundamentals first.
The Railsplitters’ rotation includes 10 players and they’re shuffled in and out so they’re always able to give their all, especially on the defensive end. The other key to their success is their ability to share the ball.
That’s not an accident.
“The one thing we’re told is that we need to take care of the little things and then the big things will take care of themselves,” Charleston said. “Defense wins championships, use your hands, slide on defense, take care of the basketball and always give it your all. This is what the coaches talk about and we took it seriously.”
The coaches are a big part of it.
According to Charleston, whenever the Railsplitters have a question, the coaching staff will go out of their way to answer it. And whenever they need anything off the court, the coaches are there.
“It’s pretty cool that the coaches have our backs so much, we love them,” Charleston said.
“They’re a big reason for this. We’re listening to them and they’re helping us get better every day.”
The coaches are a big reason, but they’re not the only reason.
According to Charleston, this run is happening because of the work they put in last summer. That makes the work well worth it.
“Every day in the summer, every day we were out there from 8 to 3,” Charleston said. “We were all there. And we didn’t just work on scoring, we worked on everything. A lot of people think because we’re in the Public League, we’re not good. We just play by running up and down, but that’s not what we do. And I think that’s why we’re doing so good now. We’re playing like a team.”
Playing like a team has gotten the Railsplitters to the big school championship. Charleston still has another year at Lincoln to win a state championship.
But he’s not interested in just getting there this year. His goal is to take it all the way to the end so the seniors on this year’s team can experience the highest of the highs before they graduate.
“Last year when we lost in the playoffs, I felt so bad for the seniors because that was it for them,” Charleston said. “They aren’t here this year. I don’t feel too bad when we lose for me, I feel bad for the seniors. I wanted to win so bad for them last year, and this year I want to do it for these seniors.”
And that’s why he’s going to Hershey.
The two-hour trip isn’t for fun, it’s a business trip. And he’s hoping it’s a successful one.
“I don’t like chocolate, I’m not going for fun or anything like that,” said Charleston, a Holmesburg resident. “This is going to be a great experience. We’re all excited to go there, but we’re going there for basketball, to win a championship. This is why we played all year, and we just want to play one more game the same way we played all year.” ••