Special to LTN
PUMPKIN CENTER â€” North Lincolnâ€™s fifth consecutive win Friday night was a thing of beauty for 31 minutes.
But it was that one minuteâ€”the last minute of the gameâ€”that will be most remembered in the Lady Knightsâ€™ 97-42 dismantling of Cherryville.
North Lincoln senior Stephanie Wooten stole the ball and headed toward an uncontested layup. But she was fouled hard on the play and sent tumbling into the wall and double doors behind the basket.
The result was a nasty gash on the back of her head that sent her to the hospital and promptly ended the game with one minute remaining on the clock.
â€œShe did get 11 staples in her head,â€ North Lincoln coach Lynn Rhyne said Sunday.
â€œShe had a mild concussion, not severe. The CAT scan came back free and clear, not anything major.â€
Rhyne was quick to point out that there were no bad feelings toward Cherryville.
â€œItâ€™s just one of those things and that happens; itâ€™s basketball,â€ she said. â€œIt happens. We donâ€™t have any ill will toward them. We donâ€™t have any ill will toward the little girl. That happens in basketball.â€
Still, itâ€™s unlikely that Wooten, who scored 13 points and had 12 assists, will play this week. The Knights (12-4, 8-0 in Southern Piedmont) play Highland Tech at home Tuesday and meet rival Lincolnton at home Friday.
â€œIf she is allowed to practice, it will be on a moderation basis,â€ Rhyne said of Wooten, the teamâ€™s second-leading scorer and leader in assists. â€œIâ€™d say sheâ€™s definitely out Tuesday. Friday, that is questionable. Sheâ€™ll probably not be allowed to play on Friday, but the next week she will probably be allowed to do some return-to-play stuff.â€
Prior to the game-ending play, the Lady Knights put on a show.
With 5:46 left to play in the first half, Cherryville cut the lead to 28-23 on a Taylor Laskey basket. The Lady Knights then went on a staggering 22-4 run to end the half as Antaijah Easter scored 12 points to give North Lincoln a 50-27 halftime advantage.
Easter scored 24 of her game-high 30 points in the first half. She was 9 of 13 from the field and made all 12 of her free throw attempts. She also had nine rebounds and eight assists.
â€œShe was just on fire,â€ Rhyne said of Easter. â€œSheâ€™s very consistent when it comes to free throws. She did a good job getting the ball down the court, passing, looking â€” all our girls did that. They really played team ball. I was very proud of them for looking for each other.â€
The Lady Knights opened the third quarter on a 19-4 run, sparked by three consecutive three-pointers from Nicole Paysour.
Paysour finished with 12 points, hitting 4 of 8 three-pointers, while Sarah Barr also added 12 points on 4 of 5 shooting from three-point range. Senior Lainey Livernois added 11 points.
Lauren Graham led Cherryville with 15 points.
Prior to their current five-game winning streak, the Lady Knights had averaged 59.3 points in eight games, going 4-4. In their past five games, North Lincoln is averaging 87.2 points and has topped the 90-point mark three times.