VALE â€” When North Lincolnâ€™s Hunter Caldwell broke his arm two weeks ago, it left coach Eric King wondering where he would replace all the things his junior guard brought to the table.
After four games without Caldwell, King is getting a good idea.
â€œWeâ€™re starting to experiment a little more with our depth, which is kind of forced, but itâ€™s a good thing in the long run,â€ King said after his teamâ€™s 53-38 victory against West Lincoln.
â€œIt would be a lot better if we could also get Hunter back for the playoffs. Some guys are stepping up. Iâ€™m real proud of them defensively tonight.â€
It was a night that senior Gray Brotherton, who scored a season-high 32 points earlier in the week against Bessemer City, was able to defer to his teammates while he focused on containing West Lincolnâ€™s Kyle Wyatt.
Brotherton scored eight points to go along with seven rebounds and six assists.
In the opening half, he frustrated the Rebelsâ€™ leading scorer. Wyatt managed six points in the half as North Lincoln built a 19-point halftime advantage.
â€œGrayâ€”heâ€™s a professional,â€ King said of the schoolâ€™s all-time leading scorer.
â€œThatâ€™s all you can say about him. He knows exactly what needs to be done and when to do it.â€
Despite a poor shooting opening half, West Lincoln was within striking distance after Wyatt scored to make it 23-13 with 2 minutes remaining.
Cohen Pirtle (10 points, eight rebounds) answered with a basket and three consecutive West Lincoln turnovers turned into 45 seconds the Rebels would like to have back.
Christian Ramos converted a steal into a layup and then turned another turnover into a three-point play.
To cap off the 9-0 run, Ramos found Pirtle under the basket to close the half with North Lincoln on top, 32-13.
â€œThatâ€™s big to go into halftime with your confidence pulled back up,â€ King said of the end-of-the-half flurry.
â€œThey did a good job of trying to slow us down. We were able to get a few baskets in transition. That was the difference in the game.â€
Along with the emergence or Pirtle, who is averaging 10 points in the last five games, the Knights got nine points apiece from Ramos and Landon Yarbrough and Justin Henson came off the bench to hit two 3-pointers and score eight points.
The junior guard has hit 4 of 7 three-pointers in the past three games for the Knights.
Wyatt scored 14 of his team-high 20 points in the second half for the Rebels (1-19, 0-12 SPC).
The Knights (13-7, 7-5 SPC) are battling for the third spot in the conference and face Lake Norman Charter (6-6 SPC), which beat them 47-42 earlier this season, on Tuesday.
They close the regular season Friday against East Lincoln (7-5 SPC).
â€œThatâ€™s the battle for third, thatâ€™s a big spot in the conference tournament coming up,â€ King said.