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Bellevue boys ready for challenge against Lincoln | Prep basketball news
Who: Bellevue (21-4, third seed Sea-King district) VS. Lincoln (23-3, top seed District 3/4)
When: Friday, Feb. 28, 8 p.m., Mount Tahoma High School (4634 S. 74th St., Tacoma)
How they got here: The Abes were the fifth seed in the District 3/4 tournament, and won four straight games to take the title.
A 66-47 win over Hazen got things started, before a 54-39 victory over Columbia River ensured Lincoln a Regional spot.
A 68-66 game against Timberline in the semi-finals was the closest of the tournament, before the Abes beat Wilson 80-70 to claim the top seed from the bi-district.
Bellevue won 14 straight to close the regular season, win the 3A KingCo tournament and punch a Regional ticket with a quarterfinal win over Seattle Prep in the Sea-King district tournament. Eastside Catholic beat the then-second ranked Wolverines in the semi finals before the Wolverines beat O'Dea in the third place game.
What's at stake: A top seed in the 3A state quarterfinals in the Tacoma Dome
Players to watch: Lincoln - Ahmaad Rorie, SR, Guard; Rorie made news earlier this year when the West Central District granted his immediate eligibility after a return from a Florida prep school, and O'Connor said he gives the Abes another reliable scoring threat.
Bellevue - Sharif Khan, SO, Guard; The sinewy guard kept Bellevue within reach against Eastside Catholic with some timely shooting and stellar on-ball defense in the district tournament, and will have to play a large role again on the defensive end to help contain Rorie and the Abes.
Lincoln was having a strong season without Cal-Berekely commit Ahmaad Rorie, who left for Montverde Academy in Florida after a single season with the Abes (his first two prep seasons were played at 2A Clover Park).
When he returned, they became an even more serious threat to make a run at the 3A title.
"He's a very good guard, a good scorer, and he can make his teammates better" Bellevue coach Chris O'Connor said of Rorie. "He's someone we have to focus on."
Lincoln has won nine of its last ten games, and beat Jackson, the top-ranked team in Class 4A, earlier in the year.
O'Connor said he expects the Abes to stick to their offensive plan and try and run the Wolverines back on defense, giving Rorie, sophomore guard Trevion Brown and senior forward Justice Martion a chance to establish the pace.
"You can't get caught up in that type of game," O'Connor said of an up-and-down affair. "We have to have really good help, and close out without letting them go by us."
Helping one another on defense has been one of the many areas of improvement for a Bellevue team looking to get back to the Tacoma Dome for the first time since its 3A state title game appearance in 2010-11. O'Connor said the chemistry of this year's team was obvious before the year began. But it has been increased leadership among the players that has resulted in a more consistent effort on both ends of the floor.
"I think the maturity has really come out this year," he said. "I think what we're doing right now is playing better, more consistently."