LINCOLNTON â€” Early in the second half, West Lincoln found itself in the unlikeliest of positions.
Winless in Southern Piedmont Conference play, the Rebels trailed first-place Lincolnton by just four points and had the ball.
But the next three minutes showed why the two teams spent the regular season on opposite ends of the conference standings as the Wolves pulled away and held off a determined West Lincoln squad, 65-52, on Friday night.
â€œOur guys showed up. We havenâ€™t had the most successful season, but our guys battled and I couldnâ€™t be more proud of their effort, their intensity,â€ Rebels coach Karl Sain said. â€œIt would have been really easy for them to decide to shut down and to move on mentally, but they havenâ€™t.â€
As the third quarter opened, West Lincoln (1-21, 0-14 SPC) got a three-pointer from Luke Webb to cut the Wolvesâ€™ lead to 26-22. After a Lincolnton turnover and with a chance to pull within one score, the Rebels worked the ball around and found Brett Huff open in the corner. Huffâ€™s three-point attempt rolled in and out.
From there, Lincolnton went on one of its scoring flurries as Jalen Littlejohn scored 10 points during a 16-3 run by the Wolves over the next three minutes.
Littlejohn, who missed all five of his field-goal attempts in a scoreless first half, was 7 of 10 in the second half and scored all of his game-high 18 points.
â€œHe missed some open looks in the first half that he usually knocks down, but heâ€™s got the ability to score in spurts when he gets on a roll,â€ Lincolnton coach Bob Cowie said.
For the Wolves, it was their first game since senior Jonathan Gidney was dismissed from the team. Patrick Rendleman stepped into the starting lineup and scored nine points in a balanced scoring effort from Lincolnton (17-4, 12-2 SPC). Jonathan Sherrill added 14 points in support of Littlejohn, while Lorenzo Carter added nine, Michael Cunningham had eight and Alonzo Mobley scored seven, including an electrifying third quarter dunk.
â€œWeâ€™ve done a great job all year long of sharing the basketball,â€ Cowie said. â€œWe have a variety of people who can score and thatâ€™s a big positive for us.â€
Kyle Wyatt led West Lincoln with 14 points, while Webb and Hunter Dyer added eight apiece. Huff, who missed 19 games with a fracture in his wrist/hand, played in just his second game since the injury and added seven points.
â€œWe shared the ball real well,â€ Sain said. â€œKyle had a tough shooting night, but he led our team with four assists. Hunter hit three shots; Luke hit a couple of outside shots. We shared the ball well and our offense was clicking. We went through a long stretch where we just couldnâ€™t make a shot.â€
Lincolnton, which tied Highland Tech for the regular-season title, receives the No. 2 seed because of the tiebreaker. West Lincoln plays at Highland Tech on Monday, while the Wolves play at home Monday against Bessemer City.
â€œI feel very confident,â€ Cowie said. â€œWe need to look upon this as another seasonâ€”the postseasonâ€”and see if we can get on a roll here in the last couple weeks of the season.â€