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Mustangs fall to Rams in OT, 43-39

MICHAEL GEBELEIN
Sports Writer

DENVER — The East Lincoln Mustangs were poised to beat the No. 1 team in the Southern Piedmont Conference twice in as many games through 31 minutes of Tuesday’s contest with the Highland Tech Rams.
The final minute of regulation play proved fatal for the Mustangs. Highland Tech’s Joe Deese hit a two-pointer with 55 seconds left in the fourth to send the game into overtime. The Rams outscored East Lincoln (9-13, 7-6 SPC) 7-3 in the extra minutes for a 43-39 win.
East Lincoln’s 55-52 overtime win of the Lincolnton Wolves on Friday, along with the Rams’ 59-52 win over Lake Norman Charter, helped propel the Rams to a shared spot on top of the Southern Piedmont Conference standings. An East Lincoln win in Tuesday’s game would have given the Wolves sole possession of the conference title headed into Friday’s final regular season games.
East Lincoln’s new found reputation as giant killers appeared solidified through three-and-a-half quarters of play. Mustang sophomore Charlie Hills, who finished with 14 points, got East Lincoln on the board with a layup two minutes into the game. After a made free throw by the Rams, Hills pushed East Lincoln’s lead to 5-1 on a three-point play. Kameron Harper brought the Rams within one point with a three-pointer, but a put-back by East Lincoln junior Tyler Brock and another layup by Hills gave the Mustangs a 9-4 lead. The Mustangs were 0-4 from the field during the final two minutes of the first quarter, and ended with a 9-6 lead.
Hills opened up the second quarter for the Mustangs with a field goal and a free throw for a 12-9 lead. East Lincoln senior Antwaine McLean pushed that lead to 14-9 after a steal and a run-out layup. The Rams put six unanswered points on the board on two three-pointers, both by Harper, to go into halftime down 17-15.
East Lincoln had its most productive offensive quarter in the third period. Mustang senior Marcus McDowell scored for East Lincoln with a field goal, followed shortly by a jumper McLean. The Mustang went into the final eight minutes of regulation time with a 28-24 lead.
The Rams took their first lead of the night with four minutes left to play, on another three-pointer by Harper. Hills responded just over a minute later with a layup that put East Lincoln ahead 32-31, followed by a jumper by McDowell for a 34-31 advantage. Highland Tech’s Jevon Patton hit a three-pointer to knot the game up at 34-34.
Brock gave the Mustangs the lead with just over a minute left in the fourth with two free throws, but Deese knocked down a two-point shot with 55 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.
The Rams started the overtime period with a 5-0 run that put the game out of reach for the Mustangs. Brock scored the period’s lone points for the Mustangs with a three-pointer with 1:31 left to play.
The Mustangs host North Lincoln on Friday for the final game of the regular season.

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