DENVER â€” The North Lincoln Lady Knights had high expectations headed into the 2011-2012 season.
â€œThe girls set the goal, from the beginning of the season, to finish first in the conference,â€ North Lincoln head coach Lynn Rhyne said. â€œEvery game theyâ€™ve improved. Theyâ€™ve come together as a team. I think they play very unselfishly and thatâ€™s been a key to a lot of our wins.â€
North Lincoln finished the regular season with an 85-52 victory over the East Lincoln Lady Mustangs on Friday, a 14-0 record in conference play and the Southern Piedmont Conference title.
Despite a roster including seven seniors, North Lincolnâ€™s most outstanding performance on Friday came from sophomore Antaijah Easter.
Easter scored 34 points for the Lady Knights, including 29 in the first half alone.
â€œShe is just a player, but there again, the girls play their roles,â€ Rhyne said. â€œWhen she was hot, they kept going to her. Theyâ€™ve played together for so long now that they kind of know whoâ€™s on and whoâ€™s not. Easter has great leaping ability, and she knows basketball. Sheâ€™s a leader on our team, as a sophomore, even though I have seven seniors. You would think that it might not work, but it does.â€
North Lincoln took a 12-0 lead in the first three minutes of the game. Senior Stephanie Wooten took the ball down the left side of the court for a lay-up after Easter won the jump ball to start the game.
The Lady Knights kept East Lincoln on the defensive with four steals in the first three minutes of the game that led to points, three by Easter and one by Wooten.
East Lincolnâ€™s Ashlee Frazier got the Lady Mustangs on the board by threading between two defenders for an unimpeded layup. Easter pushed North Lincolnâ€™s leadÂ to 12 points with free throws before Jennifer Allison hit a jumper for the Lady Mustangs.
The Lady Knights scored 23 points in both the first and second quarters, while allowing 26 points total to the Lady Mustangs during the first 16 minutes of play. East Lincolnâ€™s offensive production fell even further in the third quarter, with seven points, before its best quarter of the evening in the fourth, with 19 points.
North Lincoln was without senior starter Lacey Miller because of a bruised foot. Rhyne said Miller would likely miss the first day of the conference tournament today, and could possibly not be ready to play until Fridayâ€™s conference tournament championship game.
The No. 1 Lady Knights begin Southern Piedmont Conference tournament play today at home against the No. 8 Bessemer City Yellow Jackets. No. 7 East Lincoln travels to No. 2 Lake Norman Charter. The Lady Knights defeated Bessemer City 98-23 on Jan. 3 and 81-27 on Jan. 31.
Lake Norman Charter defeated East Lincoln 41-15 on Dec. 16 and 49-34 on Jan. 27.
A North Lincoln win today will pit the Lady Knights against West Lincoln or Highland Tech on Wednesday. TheÂ Mustangs will face either Lincolnton or Cherryville.