Senior Zack Gibson dribbled the ball at the top of the key for 21 seconds.
With the score deadlocked at 60, Gibson knew just who to go to.
Fellow senior Lance Friday, who like Gibson has been in many pressure-packed situations, had put the Wolves on his back with 13 fourth-quarter points.
So with five seconds left, it was no surprise Gibson calmly tossed the ball down to Friday.
One quick move later and two free throws left Lincolnton celebrating a 63-60 come-from-behind victory over North Lincoln.
After Alex Loftin, who led the Knights in scoring with 25 points, made one free throw and missed the next, it was time for Friday to finish what he started.
â€œEverything was going through my head. â€˜I got to make it, I got to make it. If I miss it, I just got to play harder,â€™â€ Friday said of the most-pressurized basketball moment of his career.
Lincolnton went on a 10-2 run in the final three minutes of the first half to cut North Lincolnâ€™s lead, which at one point had reached 17, to 34-28 with 47 seconds remaining before the half.
Four straight free throws by 6 foot 5 inch David Ward gave the Knights a 10-point lead at the half.
Wardâ€™s free throws had temporarily stopped the bleeding and served as a band aid.
But at the beginning of the second half, the Wolves quickly ripped it off as they opened with an 8-0 run, seven of which came from Friday.
North answered Lincolntonâ€™s intensity with a 5-0 spurt, giving them a 47-38 lead with one minute and 11 seconds left in the third.
Neither team dented the scoreboard until Loftinâ€™s fourth three-pointer gave the Knights a 50-40 advantage with four minutes and 30 seconds to play.
For the next three minutes, both teams exchanged buckets. Then sophomore Demery Brewer decided to take over.
Brewer made a layup and had an opportunity for a three-point play down 59-52.
However, he opted for a four-point play as he missed the free throw, got his own rebound and hit a turnaround jumper to make the score 59-56 with one minute and 17 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing possession, the Knights missed the front end of a one-and-one. Lincolnton quickly capitalized as Friday made a layup drawing the Wolves to within one 59-58 with 50 seconds to play.
Enter Jamel Reeves.
Reeves stole a pass at half court drove straight to the hoop for a layup giving Lincolnton its first lead of the contest.
The Knights had a chance to tie down three, but a bobble prevented a desperation three as time expired.
â€œItâ€™s a tough loss. The boys being through everything theyâ€™ve had to go through to play so well and to have it slip out of their hands â€“ it was tough,â€ North Lincoln head coach David Johnson said.
â€œI believe we went away from what got us there in the first quarter. We started rushing the ball and didnâ€™t take our time,â€ Johnson said.
While one coach was trying to figure out what happened at the end of the game, the other was pondering the beginning.
â€œIâ€™m still trying to figure out why we werenâ€™t ready to play. We basically didnâ€™t show up â€™til about two minutes left in the first quarter,â€ Lincolnton head coach Bob Cowie said. â€œMost of the time youâ€™re not fortunate enough to come back and win a game like that, but I hope we learned a lesson that you got to be ready to play,â€ he said.
Friday scored a game-high 28 points single handedly keeping the Wolves in the game.
For him it was simple â€“ he just didnâ€™t want to lose.
â€œI just tried to go off. I knew we had to come back, so I just tried to pump it up. I knew that was my stretch, so I just posted every time, and they fed me the ball, and I scored,â€ Friday said.
While both Reid Ketner and David Ward have Friday by about six inches, Friday used his muscular frame to make up for the height discrepancy.
â€œHe plays with a whole lot of heart. Heâ€™s in the post 5 feet 10 inches playing against kids 6 feet 5 inches, and he just goes after it, shot fakes them and gets a lot of things done,â€ Cowie said.
Lincolnton (3-1, 1-1 Southern Piedmont) will square off against North Gaston in the championship game at 8 p.m. tonight. North Lincoln (2-7, 1-1 SP) will face West Lincoln at 5 p.m.
by John Mark Brooks