DALLASâ€”Will that old sports adage prove true again when Lincolnton plays North Gaston tonight at 8 in the boys championship game of the Peopleâ€™s Bank Holiday Clash?
â€œThey say it is awfully difficult to beat a team three times,â€ Lincolnton coach Bob Cowie said after the Wolves slipped past North Lincoln 69-63 Tuesday in the opening round at North Gaston High School. â€œI know the kids are looking forward to the opportunity. I think we will be ready to play and give a great effort.â€
The question is whether a â€œgreat effortâ€ will be enough against a North Gaston team that already owns two wins over the Wolves this season. The last one came on Dec. 21 at Lincolnton, a 60-43 North Gaston victory.
In both games, the Wolves (3-6) put together a solid first half but got worn down by North Gastonâ€™s full-court pressure and superior depth.
â€œWe have to find a way to put four quarters together,â€ Cowie said. â€œWe played them even for two halves, and then they have blown us out for two halves.â€
North Gaston (8-3) set up the third meeting with the Wolves by hammering West Lincoln 65-34 in the final game of the first round on Tuesday.
Lincolnton, meanwhile, had a more difficult time advancing. The Wolves had control much of the way against North Lincoln, but could not put the Knights away.
North Lincoln stayed in the game with some long-range shooting in the second half, and fought back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
In fact, the Knights (2-9) got as close as 65-63 with 49 seconds left on two free throws by Trishtan Johnson. But the Wolves scored the gameâ€™s final four points, all at the line, to earn a third shot against North Gaston.
Lance Friday, Lincolntonâ€™s undersized center, had 18 points to lead all scorers. Guard Zack Gibson scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half after a 1-for-7 start from the field. And Jammel Jefferies, a transfer from Newton-Conover, also reached double figures with 12 points.
Trishtan Johnson topped North Lincolnâ€™s scoring with 15 points, followed by Lesharion Johnson and Alex Loftin with 13 each and Kenny Bethea with 11.
Loftin kept North Lincoln within range with 4-for-5 second-half shooting, including three 3-pointers from the 20-22 foot range. Bethea also did his part to give North a shot, scoring nine points in the fourth quarter.
Lance Friday was the blue-collar worker inside for the Wolves, scoring two baskets on putbacks and netting eight points at the line.
â€œYou talk about everything Lance Friday does for us, and he is our MVP this season thus far,â€ Cowie said of the junior post player. â€œHe plays awfully hard. Even though he is undersized, he is strong and he gets shots off.â€
In the other boys first-round game, 6-foot-6 Aaron Tyson scored 21 points to lead North Gaston past West Lincoln (2-9). Ahead by 11 at the half, the Wildcats went on a 25-9 third-quarter run to break the game open. Ben Pooleâ€™s 12 points topped West Lincolnâ€™s scoring.
In girls action, Lincolnton beat North Lincoln 44-42 and North Gaston beat West Lincoln 55-35. North Gaston and Lincolnton meet in the girls final tonight at 6:30. Unlike their male counterparts, the Lady Wolves (5-4) are 2-0 against North Gaston (5-6) this season.
Lincolnton 10 17 20 22 -69
North Lincoln 5 17 19 22 -63
WOLVES: Zack Gibson 15, Demory Williams 5, Dusty Friday 6, Lance Friday 18, Dustin Metts 9, Jammel Jefferies 12, P.J. Hamright 4.
KNIGHTS: Lesharion Johnson 13, Trishtan Johnson 15, David Ward 4, Kenny Bethea 11, Peyton Brady 2, Kyle Baker 3, Alex Loftin 13, Justin Thompson 2.
by Mike Powell