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Knights get key SPC win

KEN BRADLEY
Special to LTN

PUMPKIN CENTER — Forgive Cohen Pirtle if he didn’t have a lot to say after North Lincoln beat Cherryville on Friday night.
Instead, the junior forward’s performance was plenty loud as North Lincoln finished off a season sweep of the Ironmen, 78-68.
Pirtle entered Friday’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? “Yes,” Pirtle said.
Did he expect a game like that? “Not at all,” he smiled afterward.
Enough said. The opportunity to be a bigger contributor Friday presented itself with Cameron Varberg sidelined with an injury.
“We were sitting there saying, who’s going to step up tonight and take those points and Cohen stepped up,” North Lincoln coach Eric King said.
“Cohen missed last year in basketball. He played freshman year, but didn’t play as a sophomore because of injury and he’s just now starting to feel like he’s in the flow of things. He can move his legs a little bit more. He was huge.”
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.
“The first thing coach told us was to come out of the gate and get ahead,” said Cannon, who added 16 points and eight assists.
“Once we get ahead, then we’d go through the game and get through it (with a win).”
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.
“I just found open spots on the floor and anytime someone drove in, they just found me,” 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 trouble—Ramos, Caldwell and Landon Yarbrough fouled out in the final two minutes—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.

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