Some wins are prettier than others, but a win is a win.
The Lincoln Blue Tigers didn’t put together a perfect performance Wednesday night against the Hannibal-LaGrange Trojans, but the Blue Tigers picked up a 66-48 victory at Jason Gym nonetheless.
“I told our guys before the game that is a program we had never beaten before, we were 0-for-2 against them,” Lincoln coach Jimmy Drew said. “We want to always protect our backyard, they are in our state, so we want to have a good showing. We were able to come away with a win.”
Lincoln used an early 10-0 run to take a 10-2 lead, and the Blue Tigers held the lead the rest of the way.
But the Trojans were able to hang around in the contest and trailed just 15-7 midway through the first half.
The Blue Tigers switched to a full-court press defense, looking for anything to energize their team.
“I was just trying to jumpstart us,” Drew said. “Even though we didn’t give up a ton of points on the defensive end, we just didn’t have the energy we would have liked to have. It was mostly just trying to jumpstart our energy and get guys flying around a little bit.”
The move worked. Lincoln held Hannibal-LaGrange without a made field goal for almost the next eight minutes of game time, extending the lead to 25-9 before Chris Cross ended the streak with a step back jumper with about three minutes left.
The Trojans were able to close the half strong and trailed just 29-19 at the break.
“They had guys that can make shots,” Drew said. “Anytime you have guys that can make shots and you let them get going, then you’re going to be in for it. Cross got going in the first half.”
Hannibal-LaGrange continued to keep its deficit close for the first few minutes of the second half, but a 16-2 Lincoln run fueled by junior forward Franck Yetna and freshman guard Clay Butler put the game out of reach for good and gave the Blue Tigers’ their biggest lead of the game at 52-30.
Yetna had six points and three of his game-high five steals during the stretch, and Butler added his first points of his collegiate career. Lincoln needed a spark, and Yetna and Butler brought it.
“Franck made the jump we needed him to make this offseason, he’s been awesome this entire year. Today, he was the best player on the floor, we finished plus-29 when he was on the floor,” Drew said. “… I was happy for (Butler) more than anything, I was proud of him. He came in when we needed energy, and he brought exactly that.”
The closest the Trojans would get the rest of the way was 15 points at 61-46 following back-to-back 3-pointers by Janssen Flotow, six of his 12-point second half.
“(Flotow) got going in the second half a little bit,” Drew said. “Those guys have shown they can score against a number of different level teams.”
Lincoln did not have its best performance on the offensive end, finishing 24-of-53 (45 percent) from the field and 6-of-22 (27 percent) from 3, but finding ways to win when not performing at a high level is a good sign for the Blue Tigers.
“Those are the nights you get to see the character of the team,” Drew said. “They found a way to win, so the positive is if you’re not at your best and you find a way to win, that typically bodes well for moving forward.”
Yetna paced Lincoln with 16 points, five rebounds and five steals, Tyson Robinson chipped in 14 points off the bench, Jamar Madge Jr. added 11 and Elijah Farr finished with a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Cross had 16 points, while and Flotow finished with 14 for Hannibal-LaGrange (3-7).
Lincoln (6-1) will return to MIAA play at 3 p.m. Saturday when it hosts Central Missouri.