The senior has plenty of new faces around to help turn Lincoln boys hoops into a title contender.

Playing for the Lincoln High School boys basketball team the past few years has been challenging for senior Sawyer Heald.

While playing and competing every night in the Portland Interscholastic League is a worthwhile experience, a couple of losing seasons can be frustrating.

However, in 2021-22, Heald has some help.

Insert the Seely-Roberts family with head coach Heather, believed to be the first woman to coach a boys team at the 6A level in Oregon history, and her twin sons Moroni and Malachi, plus a Central Catholic transfer in Graham Eikenberry, and this Lincoln team looks quite a bit different for Heald.

And more importantly, it's one that is finally winning, including an 81-58 road win over Ida B. Wells on Wednesday, Jan. 19.

"I think they're excited to win," Heather Seely-Roberts, the third coach in the past three seasons at Lincoln, said. "It's a different style from what they played last year … I've been really grateful that all the guys have bought into it."

The player who has had to buy in the most has been Heald, who was used to being the guy the past two seasons leading the way on all cylinders.

Now that Heald has some playmakers around him, his role has changed to being more of jack of all trades, as Seely-Roberts described.

"For me, maybe I'm not going to score all the points, I'm not going to be the main person on offense, but the best thing I can do is just help out the team," Heald said. "I've been wanting this for so long, a winning team."

At 11-4 overall and 5-1 in league, Lincoln is doing plenty of winning to put itself into first place in the Portland Interscholastic League.

Juniors Moroni and Malachi Seely-Roberts have done a high volume of the scoring, which is no surprise considering the two dominated at the Class 3A level the past two seasons for Yamhill-Carlton. But Heald is more than capable of going off on a night.

More importantly, Heald described his role as just being the leader and helping out all the new players to Lincoln and the PIL to help navigate the tough league slate. PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Lincoln boys basketball's Sawyer Heald spins away from an Ida B. Wells defender Jan. 19, 2022, at Ida B. Wells High School.

"Sawyer, I think, is a natural-born leader, so he's had to take a different role," Heather Seely-Roberts said. "He's doing what he needs to do defensively, he's a great outside shooter, he plays our backup point guard."

Heald isn't the only starter making plenty of noise, with Eikenberry and his 6-foot-10 frame causing havoc for defenders down low.

Trevor Dean is the fifth starter. Heather Seely-Roberts said he brings plenty of defensive energy, especially in the Cardinals' difficult full-court press.

But meshing all the new faces together has been Heald, who knows what it takes to win in the PIL and, more importantly, at the 6A level.

"There's going to be a lot of adversity in the PIL … any team can be good, any team can go on a run," Heald said. "It's a lot of talent, a lot more shooting and a lot of athleticism."

Lincoln has hung around with the best of them, including a big win over league-favorite Grant last week when the Cardinals used a huge second half for a comeback win.

The Cardinals know they are the underdogs, and Heather Seely-Roberts painted that picture at halftime against Grant. With two new guys from the 3A level, another junior transfer and two more players who played on a 2-14 team, the Cardinals coach let them know how other teams probably view them.PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Lincoln boys basketball's Graham Eikenberry, left, fights for a rebound against Ida B. Wells' Henri Perrin on Jan. 19, 2022, at Ida B. Wells High School.

But the win over top-10 ranked Grant was a bit of proof that this team of recently assembled parts can hang with anyone.

"You want them to play the underdog role, but when we beat Grant, we knew there was going to be more of a target," Heather Seely-Roberts said. "I also knew back in December when we lost those games at the Capital City Classic, I knew that our potential was to go up. We just haven't been together very long, so the longer we're together you can see we're playing more as a team."

The team chemistry is building, and so is the resume for a Lincoln team that didn't even receive any significant votes in the latest OSAA coaches poll.

Polls aren't important to the Cardinals, though, and as long as this family continues to gel, Heald sees the sky as the limit for his birds.

"We're really a family, even though we have a lot of new guys, we're really together as a team," Heald said. "When we play hard, no one can beat us. When we play together, nobody can beat us.

"I really, truly believe we're a state contender if we play together."PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Lincoln boys basketball head coach Heather Seely-Roberts, right, talks to her team during a timeout against Ida B. Wells on Jan. 19, 2022, at Ida B. Wells High School.

You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.