NEWTON — The majority of East Lincoln’s mens varsity basketball team isn’t used to losing.
The team had to postpone its first three games of the 2012-2013 season because five of its key players were a part of the Mustangs’ undefeated state championship football team.
Those athletes made their return to the basketball court on Tuesday, and wound up on the wrong side of a 49-45 final against the Newton-Conover Red Devils.
Charlie Hills, a 6-foot-7, 200 lb. junior led East Lincoln in scoring with 13 points. Junior Domonique Smith added 11 points and was 2-2 on free throws, and senior Tyler Brock posted nine points with three 3-pointers.
The Mustangs pulled to within one point of the Red Devils, 40-39, with four minutes left in the game on a put-back by Smith, but that touched off a 5-0 run by Newton-Conover. Hills brought the score back to a 45-44 Newton-Conover advantage with back-to-back layups with just over a minute left in the game, but the Red Devils added five points in the final 60 seconds to take away the victory.
The Mustangs bounced back from a 13-6 first-quarter deficit to take a 20-19 lead into the halftime break. But the Red Devils exploded for 11 unanswered points in the first three minutes of the third quarter to take a 20-30 lead.
Brock and freshman Desmond Griffith drained consecutive 3-pointers to pull the Mustangs within five points of the Red Devils with five minutes left in the third period and Brock sank another long-range shot a minute later to cut Newton-Conover’s lead to 34-29.
East Lincoln hosts South Point in nonconference play today.