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Brock, Mustangs take OT thriller over Lincolnton

East Lincoln’s Antwaine McLean goes for a layup with Lincolnton’s Jonathan Gidney defending in the teams’ first meeting this season.

MICHAEL GEBELEIN
Sports Writer

LINCOLNTON — The East Lincoln Mustangs stunned the Lincolnton Wolves 55-52 in overtime on Friday.
With the loss, and the Highland Tech Rams’ 59-52 win over Lake Norman Charter on Friday, the Wolves (16-3, 10-2 SPC) currently share first place in the Southern Piedmont Conference with the Rams (13-5, 10-2 SPC). The Mustangs (9-12, 7-5 SPC) are now in a third place battle with North Lincoln (13-7, 7-5 SPC).
East Lincoln, in the midst of a five-game win streak, travel to Highland Tech on Tuesday, while the Wolves are on the road at Cherryville.
Lincolnton’s Jonathan Gidney hit one of two free throw attempts with 49 seconds left in the game to push it into overtime, but the Mustangs scored six points in the extra four minutes to Lincolnton’s three points to take the win.
Junior Tyler Brock led the Mustangs in scoring with 25 points, a career high, with six made 3-pointers. Sophomore Charlie Hills posted 11 points for East Lincoln.
The Wolves logged four players with double figures, with Jalen Littlejohn’s 14 points, and Michael Cunningham, Lorenzo Carter and Jonathan Sherrill’s 10 points each.
Sherrill had the only double-double of the game, with 10 rebounds.
The Wolves found difficulty getting their shots to fall, going 12-40 from two-point range and 6-28 from long range, and fared even worse at the free throw line, converting 10 of 24 attempts. The Mustangs hit eight of their 14 free throw attempts, with senior Antwaine McLean going 4-4 from the line, and shot just over 50 percent from two-point range, 15-29.
While five Wolves stepped to the free throw line during the game, only Cunningham and Littlejohn shot over 50 percent from the line, going 5-7 and 4-7 respectively.
East Lincoln head coach Neil Hodges, whose team struggled in the early months of the regular season, said he was happy to walk away from a tough rivalry game with a win after the Wolves routed the Mustangs 62-50 on Jan. 6.
“It’s definitely a nice win,” he said. “We’re in the process of trying to improve each game as we move along, and over the last couple of weeks we’ve been playing pretty well. We’re happy to have been able to go down to Lincolnton and get a win. and they’ve had a very outstanding year.”
Hodges noted that Hills, as a young player, has shown enormous improvement since the beginning of the season.
“Charlie has come a long way,” he said. “He’s come so far from the beginning of the year to now, and he’ll show  more improvement if he continues to work as hard as he has.”
East Lincoln was 4-12 before nabbing the first win of their current streak over Bessemer City 55-48 on Jan. 20.
“We’ve come a really long way this year from where we were back in October,” he said. “We have a very proud basketball program, and coming out as slowly as we did is kind of atypical of our program. We’re happy that during the last five or six games we’re beginning to play what people refer to as Mustang basketball.”

East Lincoln Sophomore Charlie Hills battles underneath the basket against West Lincoln.

East Lincoln’s Antwaine McLean goes for a hook shot earlier in the season against Lincolnton.

Lincolnton’s Jalen Littlejohn goes for a layup against East Lincoln in January.

Images courtesy of File Photo

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