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N. Lincoln girls finish season undefeated in SPC

MICHAEL GEBELEIN
Sports Writer

DENVER — The North Lincoln Lady Knights had high expectations headed into the 2011-2012 season.
“The girls set the goal, from the beginning of the season, to finish first in the conference,” North Lincoln head coach Lynn Rhyne said. “Every game they’ve improved. They’ve come together as a team. I think they play very unselfishly and that’s been a key to a lot of our wins.”
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 Lincoln’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.
“She is just a player, but there again, the girls play their roles,” Rhyne said. “When she was hot, they kept going to her. They’ve played together for so long now that they kind of know who’s on and who’s not. Easter has great leaping ability, and she knows basketball. She’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.”
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 Lincoln’s Ashlee Frazier got the Lady Mustangs on the board by threading between two defenders for an unimpeded layup. Easter pushed North Lincoln’s lead  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 Lincoln’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 Friday’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. The  Mustangs will face either Lincolnton or Cherryville.

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