The Shelby Golden Lionsâ€™ execution down the stretch was the difference in a hard-fought 51-50 win Tuesday night.
Darryl Montgomery, a sophomore and starting quarterback in football, came up huge for the Golden Lions. In the fourth quarter, Shelby switched to a zone offense with the guard being the focal point. The adjustment worked as Montgomery scored nine points, with five of them coming in the final three minutes.
A Montgomery lay-up gave Shelby a 46-44 lead with 3:03 remaining in the contest. Lincolnton answered on the ensuing possession as Jammelle Jefferies knocked down a jumper from just outside the key to deadlock the game.
Neal Moore, the Golden Lionsâ€™ point guard, put his team ahead 48-46 with 2:27 top play.
The Wolves attempted to run their offense on their next possession, but an ill-advised three-pointer led to a Lionsâ€™ rebound.
Lincolnton received a break as the Lions missed a lay-up, but was unable to capitalize, turning the ball over on a post feed.
Montgomery, used to plenty of pressure on the gridiron, was fouled and stepped to the line and calmly knocked down two free throws to make it a two-possession game with Shelby up 50-46.
â€œI think he sort of lives for those situations where itâ€™s one-on-one. He on the defender and heâ€™s not afraid to have the ball in his hands,â€ Golden Lionsâ€™ head coach Ken Napier said of Montgomery.
Point guard Demory Williams drew a foul and made the first. Trailing 50-47, Williams missed the second shot.
Montgomery was again fouled and missed the first three throw. Lincolntonâ€™s head coach Bob Cowie told the referee he wanted a timeout if his team got the rebound to set up a potential game-tying three-pointer. Unfortunately for the Wolvesâ€™ faithful, Montgomery unfazed by the pressure nailed his second attempt from the charity stripe.
Zack Gibson, who led all scorers with 15 points, heaved a three-pointer from just inside half court that banked in, resulting in the final score as the buzzed sounded.
Wolvesâ€™ head coach Bob Cowie refused to blame mistakes at the end of the game. Instead, he believed every mistake was crucial.
â€œYou make some mistakes down at the end, which people are going to remember, but those mistakes are no more important or less important than the 15 we made in the first halfâ€¦ sure, we made (mistakes) some at the end of the game, but you canâ€™t forget about the ones we made throughout the game,â€ he said.
An Achilles heel for the home team was free-throw shooting. In their Jan. 11 meeting versus the Lions, Lincolnton had only five three attempts. This time around they upped that number to 20 free throws, but only converted 12 of those.
â€œWe accomplished our goal of getting to the line, but obviously you have to convert more than that. One or two more free throws and itâ€™s a different game,â€ Cowie said.
Napier believed it was a huge win for the Lions (15-4, 9-2) in the Midwest 2A. He likened the victory to ACC and Big Ten coaches.
â€œYouâ€™ve prepared your team the best you can. Youâ€™re fighting for your playoff life, in the state playoffs, just like theyâ€™re fighting for the national tournament (college coaches). This was a big win.â€
Up next for Lincolnton (8-12, 6-5) is Bandys on Friday. Cowie believes the magic number to make the 2A State Playoffs is seven, as in seven wins.
â€œItâ€™s a must-win (Fridayâ€™s game). We need to make sure we take care of business. We donâ€™t want to have to go into the last week of the season knowing we have to win a basketball game. We need to get it done Friday night and Bandys will not be easy. They got some shooters and when they get hot shooting the basketball, theyâ€™re very hard to beat,â€ Cowie said.
There were 11 lead changes and seven ties in the game. Lance Friday complemented Gibson with 14 points, while Kyle Snyder and Jefferies both chipped in with six.
Ed Gullatte, who had a tomahawk dunk in the first quarter, led Shelby with 14 points. Montgomery scored 13. Moore contributed 12 in the win.
The Wolves went scoreless the final 2:55 of the contest, until Williamsâ€™ free throw. They did hold Danny Sanders, Shelbyâ€™s leading scorer with 16 points per game, to only four points.
Shelby 15 10 13 13-51
Lincolnton 12 11 13 14-50
LIONS: Ed Gullatte 14, Neal Moore 12, Danny Sanders 4, Xavier Griffin 2, Darryl Montgomery 13.
WOLVES: Zack Gibson 15, Jammelle Jefferies 6, Lance Friday 14, Demory Williams 3, Kyle Snyder 6, Matt Wright 2, Dustin Metts 4.
Shelby held Lincolnton to only four third-quarter points on their way to a 74-45 victory.
Lindsey Montgomery paced the Lions with 22 points, while Ashley Jennings scored 18. Lauren Montgomery chipped in with six.
Jessie Cline paced Lincolnton with 19 points, while Shanda Faw had 14. Brittany Jones chipped in eight for the Wolves. Lincolnton falls to 7-13 and 1-10 on the season.
by John Mark Brooks