PUMPKIN CENTER â€” Lincolnton junior Treasure Avery got Lincolnton on the board first, after nearly three minutes of play, in the Southern Piedmont Conference tournament semifinals against the Lake Norman Charter Lady Knights on Wednesday.
The problem was the 9-0 run the Lady Knights took after that score to take a 9-2 lead. After that, Lincolnton didnâ€™t see daylight. They came within three points several times in the first and second quarters, but Lake Norman Charter gradually pulled ahead for a 55-48 win and a berth in the conference tournament championship game against North Lincoln today.
â€œWhen you get late in the year like this, itâ€™s survive and advance,â€ Lincolnton head coach Jimmy Carr said. â€œI have to take my hat off to Lake Norman Charter, they played hard.â€
Lincolnton had trouble with Lake Norman Charterâ€™s Ezinne Mbamalu, a 6-foot-2-inch sophomore center who averages 13 points and 13 rebounds per game. Mbamalu posted 18 points for the Lady Knights, and pulled down 20 rebounds.
â€œThe coach from Lake Norman had a great game plan, and we knew we had to stop their post player, who is the most dominant post player in the league,â€ Carr said. â€œWe tried the best we could, but she got it done. We could have doubled her but then they have other girls that will hit shots.â€
The Lady Wolves cut the gap down to three points with a baseline three-pointer by Jasmine Killian with 40 seconds left in the first quarter, but sophomore guard Alex Busch knocked down a jump shot and a free throw to give the Lady Knights a 14-8 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Allison Bock opened the second quarter with a layup for the Lady Knights. Alexis Killian responded with a three-pointer near the baseline for Lincolnton, and Sydney Devine beat two Lake Norman Charter defenders down the stretch moments later to bring the Lady Wolves back within three points.
With 4:02 left until halftime, Lincolnton senior Chelsea Slentz drained a three-pointer from nearly six feet behind the top of the three-point line to cut Lake Norman Charterâ€™s lead to 20-18. The Lady Knights outscored Lincolnton 9-4 in the final four minutes of the first half to go into the break with a 29-22 lead.
The Lady Wolves were 0-4 from the field in the third quarter until Killian hit a three-pointer with four minutes left in the third.
Lincolnton took a 5-0 run in the final three minutes of the third, broken by a jumper by Samantha Sharman for the Lady Knights, and closed the quarter with a baseline three-pointer by Devine to head into the final eight minutes down 41-36.
The Lady Wolves brought the game back within three points four times in the fourth quarter, but for every basket Lincolnton sunk, the Lady Knights responded with two of their own.