Special to LTN
PUMPKIN CENTER â€” Forgive Cohen Pirtle if he didnâ€™t have a lot to say after North Lincoln beat Cherryville on Friday night.
Instead, the junior forwardâ€™s performance was plenty loud as North Lincoln finished off a season sweep of the Ironmen, 78-68.
Pirtle entered Fridayâ€™s nights Southern Piedmont matchup averaging less than two points and just more than one rebound per game. All he did was hit 8 of 9 field-goal attempts for a career-high 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Was he surprised at the outing? â€œYes,â€ Pirtle said.
Did he expect a game like that? â€œNot at all,â€ he smiled afterward.
Enough said. The opportunity to be a bigger contributor Friday presented itself with Cameron Varberg sidelined with an injury.
â€œWe were sitting there saying, whoâ€™s going to step up tonight and take those points and Cohen stepped up,â€ North Lincoln coach Eric King said.
â€œCohen missed last year in basketball. He played freshman year, but didnâ€™t play as a sophomore because of injury and heâ€™s just now starting to feel like heâ€™s in the flow of things. He can move his legs a little bit more. He was huge.â€
Pirtle entered the game with less than three minutes remaining in the opening quarter with the Ironmen (10-8, 3-5 SPC) leading 6-4. He put back a missed shot to tie the game and Travis Cannon found him down low for back-to-back baskets to stretch the North Lincoln lead to 10-6. The Knights did not trail again.
â€œThe first thing coach told us was to come out of the gate and get ahead,â€ said Cannon, who added 16 points and eight assists.
â€œOnce we get ahead, then weâ€™d go through the game and get through it (with a win).â€
In the third quarter, Cherryville big man Brandon Tuft (26 points) converted a three-point play to bring the Ironmen to within 39-30, but Gray Brotherton answered with two free throws and Cannon and Hunter Caldwell found Pirtle on consecutive trips down the floor to make it 45-30.
â€œI just found open spots on the floor and anytime someone drove in, they just found me,â€ Pirtle said.
Brotherton finished with 14 points for North Lincoln (11-5, 5-3 SPC), while Christian Ramos added 11 and Caldwell 10.
North Lincoln led by as many as 18 points in the fourth quarter, but several turnovers and foul troubleâ€”Ramos, Caldwell and Landon Yarbrough fouled out in the final two minutesâ€”contributed to Cherryville closing the gap.
Cannon hit 9 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter and the Knights sank 21 of 27 overall.