The rematch between the Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Lincoln boys basketball teams is big enough that it had to be moved to a bigger stage.
The showdown Friday between rivals is expected to be so big, it was moved to from Lincoln to Eastern Michigan University's Convocation Center.
Ypsilanti (9-3, 8-2) is the 10-time Southeastern Conference White Division champion. Lincoln (13-3, 10-1) — No. 15 in The News' Super 20 rankings — is looking to end that run, led by 6-foot-8 freshman phenom Emoni Bates, who is averaging 30.1 points and 10.2 rebounds.
The move to the Convocation Center was made after Lincoln defeated Ypsilanti, 68-56, Jan. 18 with Bates scoring 43 before a standing-room only crowd of 2,000 fans, including Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, at Ypsilanti High.
“They had to shut the doors at 6:15, and there were a couple of hundred people outside and they couldn’t let them in,” said Lincoln athletic director Chris Westfall, who added he arrived at 6:20 and could barely get in. “Our place holds 2,500 to 3,000, and I got a call from a lot of people who said they didn’t bother to even go to the first game because their kids or friends said they were already turning people away before 6:30.
“I don’t really know how many they turned away, but we just looked at it and said we can not only manage a crowd like that, we absolutely don’t have parking for that, so we just reached out to Eastern. I feel it will go great. I wouldn’t be surprised if there will be 4-5,000 people there.”
It will be the second time this season that Lincoln will play at the Convocation Center. Bates had 32 points and 15 rebounds in his debut Nov. 26, scoring eight during a game-ending 18-1 run to turn a 68-62 deficit into an 80-69 win over Ann Arbor Huron.
Lincoln suffered losses to No. 1 River Rouge and No. 2 Benton Harbor before losing at Chelsea, 65-61, on Friday without Bates in the lineup.
“He was ejected from the Dexter game,” Westfall said of Bates. “He dunks the ball, then gets shoved. There’s a little scrum. He runs back toward the scrum, doesn’t get within five or six feet of anybody, but the officials felt like he was inciting the incident further, so they ejected the Dexter kid and him.
“If there such a thing as an appeal process we would have appealed. Other than getting angry and running back toward the crowd he didn’t touch anybody. He didn’t really get near anybody. He got grabbed by a teammate and official and it was over before it started. There were no punches, no shoves except for the Dexter kid.
“Emoni has shown some good maturity for a kid who just turned 15, and he’s got to learn he has a big target on his back because of the publicity around him that people are going to take shots at him and try to get him going, and I think he’s got the lesson now to look at it and not let any reaction go.”
Bates will be well-rested for the rematch with Ypsilanti. Lincoln has had eight snow days, resulting in multiple games being postponed. After Friday’s game, Lincoln will play at Jackson, which is 9-2 in the White Division on Monday, host Hanover-Horton on Tuesday and then stay home Feb. 21 for a rematch with Jackson.
Lincoln has a first-round bye in the Division 1 district at Belleville, and will play the Belleville-Ypsilanti winner Feb. 27 with a possible championship game against No. 20 Ann Arbor Pioneer.