LINCOLNTON â€” The Lincolnton Wolves advanced to the second round of the NCHSAA 2A West playoffs with a 63-52 win over the North Henderson Knights on Monday.
The Wolves, long plagued by poor free-throw shooting throughout the season, an aspect of their game the Knights took note of, made 22 of 29 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
â€œThey obviously got the scouting report that we couldnâ€™t hit free throws,â€ Lincolnton head coach Bob Cowie said. â€œThat was a strategy that they came in intending to use, and we stepped up tonight and hit them.â€
All of those fourth quarter fouls took two North Henderson players out of the game in the waning minutes, and left four other players with four fouls each. Lincolntonâ€™s Lorenzo Carter finished with four fouls, and Patrick Rendleman finished with three.
â€œWeâ€™ve done a great job recently of playing defense without fouling, and those fouls are a concern with our lack of depth,â€ Cowie said, â€œbut we have people who can play without fouling.â€
Four of Lincolntonâ€™s five starters scored in double figures, with senior Jonathan Sherrill barely missing the double digit mark with nine points. Carter and Rendleman each scored 13, Michael Cunningham finished with 12 and Jalen Littlejohn led the team with 14 points.
Carter was 7-7 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, while Littlejohn added 10 points on 12 attempts.
Cowie said he saw a lack of focus from his team that will have to be alleviated before todayâ€™s second-round home game against West Caldwell.
â€œIâ€™m not sure why, and Iâ€™ll attribute it to a day off of school on Monday, but our energy and our focus was not there,â€ he said. â€œWe were able to get the win, so at least thatâ€™s a positive. No matter who we have on Wednesday weâ€™ll have to bring more energy and more focus and Iâ€™m sure we will.â€
The Knights won the tip-off, but a steal by Littlejohn led to Rendlemanâ€™s layup to put the Wolves ahead 2-0 with 6:50 remaining in the first quarter. The Knights knotted the score at 2-2 and went ahead 3-2 on a free throw at the 6:19 mark for their only lead of the night.
Rendleman pushed Lincolntonâ€™s lead to 6-3 with a short range jumper and a layup, and Carter gave Lincolnton an 11-5 advantage with a 3-pointer from deep behind the line.
The Wolves held North Henderson to single-digit scoring in both quarters of the first half, and allowed 10 points in the third quarter and 22 in the fourth