DENVER â€” 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 Tuesdayâ€™s contest with the Highland Tech Rams.
The final minute of regulation play proved fatal for the Mustangs. Highland Techâ€™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 Lincolnâ€™s 55-52 overtime win of the Lincolnton Wolves on Friday, along with the Ramsâ€™ 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 Tuesdayâ€™s game would have given the Wolves sole possession of the conference title headed into Fridayâ€™s final regular season games.
East Lincolnâ€™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 Lincolnâ€™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 Techâ€™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 periodâ€™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.