North Lincoln turned a one-point deficit at the end of the first quarter into a seven-point lead before advancing to the championship game of the third annual Peoples Bank Holiday Clash Thursday night.
The talented duo of senior Alyssa Lowe and sophomore Kayla Alexander combined for 34 points for the Lady Knights with 12 of Loweâ€™s 19 coming in the second quarter.
Lady Knights head coach Mark Lackey believes his team pretty much goes as his two leaders go.
â€œThey are the two that make us go. If theyâ€™re on, weâ€™re really good. If theyâ€™re not, weâ€™re going to struggle some,â€ he said.
Jessie Cline did all she could to keep Lincolnton in the game as she netted 19 points, but a four-point third period allowed the Knights to take a 33-23 lead entering the final quarter.
Inexperience definitely played a role in the Lady Wolves committing 29 turnovers in the ballgame, an area head coach Franklin Lowery is steadfastly trying to improve.
â€œWeâ€™ll go back to the drawing board. Theyâ€™re used to playing basketball. Iâ€™m trying to teach them to play the game and understand why you do what you do,â€ he said.
Lowery refused to belittle North Lincolnâ€™s effort but does feel having only three players with varsity experience: senior post player Hannah Parker, Brittney Jones and Cline really hurts at times.
â€œNorth Lincoln is a well-coached team. Iâ€™m not taking anything away from them. Iâ€™ve dealing with a young team that really doesnâ€™t know their roles,â€ he said.
While Lowery was disappointed, Lackey was relieved as he feels his team hasnâ€™t performed well in this tournament in the past couple of years.
â€œThe win was fantastic. It really was a big relief. We havenâ€™t played extremely well in this tournament in the past,â€ he said. â€œWe play good, but we donâ€™t play extremely well. Tonight, I felt like we were fortunate enough to play well enough to beat a good Lincolnton team.â€
North Lincoln will face West Lincoln in tonightâ€™s championship game at 6:30 p.m.
Although the Lady Knights beat the Rebels 62-53 in their first meeting, Lackey feels his team will be up against an entirely different team, judging from West Lincolnâ€™s performance Thursday.
â€œWe have to put out of our mind weâ€™ve already played them once and played a pretty good basketball game. They played extremely well and beat a good North Gaston team,â€ he said.
With the loss, Lincolnton falls to 2-5, 2-0 in the Southern Piedmont and will face North Gaston in the consolation game at 3:30 p.m. North Lincoln raises its record to 4-6, 2-0 SP.
â€œThe effort in the first half was good. We have a tendency to go away from the things weâ€™re successful with. Thatâ€™s because weâ€™re young,â€ Lowery said.
Lowe entered Thursdayâ€™s game 28 points away from 1,000 for her career. She will enter tonightâ€™s game needing just nine points to reach that benchmark.
by John Mark Brooks