Special to LTN
PUMPKIN CENTER â€” North Lincolnâ€™s Cameron Varberg had plenty of reasons to smile Tuesday night.
The Knights had just knocked off Lake Norman Charter, 56-52, in overtime. He scored the go-ahead basket in overtime and sank the game-clinching free throw in the closing seconds. On top of that, it was Senior Night and North Lincoln set a school record with its 14th win of the season.
About the only thing missing was one of his teeth.
The senior took an elbow to the mouth with three minutes left in overtime, but that was of little concern to Varberg after the Knights picked up the key Southern Piedmont victory.
â€œI took an elbow. He gave me a good hit,â€ Varberg said of losing one of his top front teeth. â€œI caught it in my hand and I looked up at my parents because I knew theyâ€™d be giving me a look because they just paid a bunch of money for that.â€
His parents will likely be OK with that after watching their son pull down a season-best 16 rebounds in support of another heroic effort from senior Gray Brotherton. Varberg was forced to play nearly the entire game as Cohen Pirtle fouled out to start the fourth quarter and Landon Yarbrough fouled out midway through the third quarter.
Brotherton scored 15 of his hard-earned 26 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
â€œThey were hounding me all night,â€ Brotherton said of his tough-to-come-by points Tuesday. â€œTheyâ€™re a good team.â€
The win lifts North Lincoln to 14-7 overall and 8-5 in conference. The Knights have a one-game lead over East Lincoln for the third seed in the conference tournament. They travel to East Lincoln on Friday.
North Lincoln played from behind most of the night and each time the Knights needed a spark, Brotherton was there to provide it.
Trailing 37-31, Brotherton converted a three-point play with 3.8 seconds left in the third quarter and then drained a 25-foot three-pointer to open the fourth quarter to pull North Lincoln even.
Lake Norman Charter pulled ahead 47-43 on a Michael Dorsainvil three-pointer, but Brotherton scored on a drive with 1:27 left in the game and added two free throws with 45.9 seconds left to force overtime.
In overtime, just seconds after he had his tooth knocked out of his mouth, Varberg scored in the paint on a pass from Christian Ramos (13 points) to give North Lincoln a 51-49 lead. Brotherton sank four free throws and Varberg made one of two foul shots to give North Lincoln a 56-52 advantage with 10.5 seconds remaining.
â€œI thought in overtime, the guys just decided they werenâ€™t going to lose,â€ Knights coach Eric King said. â€œYou could tell that the jump shot went away, we started taking it to the basket and finally realized that thatâ€™s where weâ€™re going to make our money tonight.â€
Brotherton made 12 of 13 free throws and the Knights hit 21 of 29 as a team.
â€œIt speaks to the resiliency of this team,â€ Brotherton said of the victory. â€œWe work hard every day. Since Iâ€™ve played varsity since my freshman year, thatâ€™s the most dedication Iâ€™ve seen, and I think tonight was that manifesting itself.â€