DENVER — The East Lincoln Mustangs mens varsity basketball team held a substantial lead through nearly the duration of Monday’s 41-38 win over the Lincoln Charter Eagles.
That didn’t stop the Eagles from making things interesting in the fourth quarter.
Junior Lincoln Charter power forward Andrew Howard made a jump shot from the baseline to tie the game at 28-28 with 5:35 left in the fourth quarter — the first time the score had been knotted since the opening seconds of the second quarter.
The Mustangs (3-1) missed back-to-back shots and then Howard drove down the court and dropped in a layup to give the Eagles a 30-28 lead, their first of the game, with 4:35 left to play.
Junior Miles Boone made a free throw for Lincoln Charter, and then the Eagles’ pressure defense forced two turnovers that led to short-range field goals by Howard and Nathaniel Scoggins to give the team a 35-28 lead over the Mustangs.
That was when East Lincoln clawed its way back into the game.
Senior guard Tyler Brock missed back-to-back 3-pointers but was fouled on the second attempt and effortlessly made all three free throws to cut Lincoln Charter’s lead to 35-31 with 2:54 left to play.
Brock was fouled again 35 seconds later and made both of those free throws to close the gap to a 35-33 Lincoln Charter advantage.
Howard pushed the Eagles’ lead to 37-33 with a layup with just under two minutes to play but Brock drew another foul, as he was driving just past midcourt, and made two more free throws to bring the Mustangs’ within two points of a tie game.
East Lincoln junior guard Domonique Smith then nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put the Mustangs ahead 38-37 with 1:25 left to play.
Smith added two free throws and Brock added one in the final 30 seconds of the game to outpace Lincoln Charter’s one free throw by Boone.
Junior Lincoln Charter guard Christian Hilty unsuccessfully attempted a half-court 3-pointer at the final buzzer.
The Mustangs started the game with a 6-0 run with a field goal and a free throw by 6-foot-7 junior Charlie Hills and a 3-pointer by Brock. Howard and Boone added one field goal each for Lincoln Charter in the first quarter.
East Lincoln had its most productive period in the second quarter and outscored the Eagles 17-8. Hills scored nine points, Smith added four and Brock and Hayden Duggins added two each.
The Mustangs shot 28 percent from the field but went 15-18 on free throws. Lincoln Charter shot 32 percent from the field and made seven of its 13 free-throw attempts.
“That’s typical of a game early in the year,” East Lincoln head coach Neil Hodges said. “Execution was not very good. We played good defense, but neither team shot the ball well. We typically score 50 or 60 points so we’re not a high-powered offense.”
Howard, at 6-foot-7, scored a game-high 22 points for the Eagles with 12 rebounds. Boone added eight points and five steals.
The Mustangs were paced by Hills’ 15 points. Brock and Smith scored 11 points each.