Lincoln basketball vying for state championship run

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Warren Weekly | Published January 19, 2024

 Warren Lincoln junior Chris Morgan puts up a shot during Lincoln’s 65-35  win over Romeo on Jan. 18 at  Romeo High School.

Warren Lincoln junior Chris Morgan puts up a shot during Lincoln’s 65-35 win over Romeo on Jan. 18 at Romeo High School.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

 Warren Lincoln senior  Kimari Barden controls the ball.

Warren Lincoln senior Kimari Barden controls the ball.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


WARREN — The goal was plain and simple for Warren Lincoln basketball last season — Breslin Center or bust.

Michigan State University’s basketball court is home to the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s state semifinals and finals matchups for both the boys and girls, and with heavy aspirations came heartbreak as Lincoln fell to Warren Michigan Collegiate 60-55 in the Division 2 district championship game, coming up short of a trip to East Lansing.

Returning primarily the same core who helped Lincoln coast to a 19-5 record and a Macomb Area Conference Gold league title, head coach Wydell Henry said his team focused on a new path this season.

“I felt like as a coach, I didn’t do the right fight for that game (Michigan Collegiate),” Henry said. “Coming back with eight returning guys, it was basically the same mentality that last year was with Breslin or bust, but this year, it’s state championship or bust. That’s our goal, that’s what we’re working for and working towards, and that’s what I’m hoping we can accomplish this year.”

From day one in the offseason, Lincoln focused on improving every facet of their game with summer camps at various universities including Kent State, Michigan, Bowling Green and Grand Valley.

College camps tend to feature some of the best competition in the state, allowing teams to have an idea of how their team matches up against the field.

After suffering the state tournament loss, Lincoln junior Markus Blackwell said the team gave the offseason everything they had.

“The offseason was tough because after we lost, we felt like we were ready to get back out there again,” Blackwell said. “I feel like us losing that game made us hungrier for this year and what’s to come. Playing against great competition and working hard all summer just prepared us for real games.”

The summer preparation paid off early as Lincoln, currently ranked No. 2 in Division 2 according to MHSAA and No. 6 in The D Zone 100, has jumped out to an 8-2 record with their only two losses coming to ranked Division 1 opponents Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (No. 1) and Port Huron Northern (No. 14).

Junior guard Moses Blackwell, who is the twin brother of Markus, has shined this season, especially when Lincoln needed him most.

Markus Blackwell, a Division 2 all-state honoree last season, broke his wrist on Dec. 2 in a matchup against Grosse Pointe South.

Blackwell was sidelined for the month of December and just got his cast removed, but his twin brother didn’t lose a step as he’s hit big shot after big shot throughout the season.

“I went to him (Moses) when it (Markus’ injury) happened and said, ‘Hey, this is the chance you got to show everybody that you’re just as good as your brother and the offers you got aren’t a fluke and you deserve it,’ and he’s been playing really well,” Henry said.

It was the adversity Moses needed to improve as a player and the adversity Lincoln needed to improve as a team, and they’ve held their own with the best teams in the country without their all-state guard.

“It was a chance for other guys to step up, and I’m just excited about that,” Henry said. “You have to go through adversity to be a champion, and I think having him sit out and losing someone who everyone says is our best player, we were still able to get wins. We played Orchard Lake (St. Mary’s) to the wire without him, so I think guys are starting to believe more in themselves.”

Seniors Kimari Barden (guard), Timarion Minor (forward), Rashid Clements Jr. (guard), and Jamari Culliver (guard) have all progressed this year as returning veterans for Lincoln.

Barden is a defensive-minded player with a natural IQ for the game of basketball, but Henry said it’s his selflessness that makes Barden an efficient player.

“That kid is playing exceptionally well,” Henry said. “Right now, he’s one of our heartbeats. Defensively, he checks anybody’s best player, he rebounds, and he’s selfless. He doesn’t care about scoring a lot of points. He just wants to see us win.”

Defense is the heart of Lincoln’s identity, and every player on the roster understands their role and the emphasis Henry places on a physical brand of basketball.

Lincoln currently allows the sixth-lowest points defensively (46.9) out of 36 teams in the Macomb Area Conference.

“We don’t want teams to get over 50,” Henry said. “I tell my guys the speed limit on Nine Mile and Van Dyke is 50. They may have a quarter where they get 13, but we want 10 a quarter. That’s the mindset of us, and our guys are buying into it.”

Lincoln has held teams under 50 six times this season in nine matchups.

Henry and company are currently 5-1 and tied for the top spot in their first season in the MAC White after winning the MAC Silver and Gold the past two seasons, respectively.

“We’ve been working to try and compete with the best,” Henry said.

While league play has been Lincoln’s bread and butter the past few seasons, the district stage is still a mountain Lincoln will need to climb in order to reach the Breslin Center.

More than half the season still remains, but Lincoln is playing like a team worthy of the No. 2 spot in the rankings, and will only be stronger once Markus Blackwell returns to the lineup.

“We just want to stay together on the court,” Markus Blackwell said. “I feel like we’re the best team in the state when we are all on the same page, so I think that’s the most important thing. We all want to win, but we just need to put it together and stay with each other no matter what happens.”