PUMPKIN CENTER — The Highland Tech Rams boys varsity basketball team’s 0-6 record headed into Tuesday’s Southern Piedmont Conference opener against the North Lincoln Knights may have been a bit deceiving.
The Rams (1-6, 1-0 SPC) faced tough competition in their nonconference schedule against East Rutherford, Forestview and Ashbrook, and turned that experience into a narrow 73-69 win over the Knights (6-3, 0-1 SPC) in overtime.
The Rams led by 11 points, 35-24, at the halftime break. The Knights started to chip away at that lead in the third quarter, and took a 44-42 with a two-handed jam by senior guard Terrel McClain on an assist by Christian Ramos with 2:32 left in the third period that brought a thunderous response from North Lincoln’s raucous student section. Senior guard Hunter Caldwell drained a 3-pointer with three seconds left in the third quarter to lift the Knights to a 48-42 lead.
“We got ourselves back in the game,” North Lincoln head coach Eric King said. “We did a lot of things right but when it came down to the end we need to do a little bit better job closing down on the shooters. We panicked a little bit in overtime. I saw a lot of things that we can build on, but ultimately we have to get it done there at the end.”
The Rams made a comeback of their own late in the fourth quarter. Highland Tech outscored the Knights 8-6 in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer by Sabastian Nieminen with 15 seconds left in regulation time to knot the score at 64-64 and send the game into overtime.
McClain put the Knights back on top with a free throw in the first minute of the four-minute overtime period, but Highland Tech’s Robert McMillion answered with a field goal to give the Rams a 66-65 lead. Ramos scored a field goal to give the lead back to the Knights but the Rams responded with a basket to take a 68-67 lead in the final minute of the game.
The Rams went 5-6 from the free throw line in the final 20 seconds of the game to take the win. Ramos’s 3-pointer at the buzzer, which would have left the Knights with a one-point deficit, bounced off the rim.
The Knights had four players score in double digits. McClain led the team with 19 points, went 7-10 from the free throw line and was 6-13 shooting with five rebounds and an assist.
Ramos finished the game with 18 points on 7-15 shooting with three 3-pointers, three rebounds and six assists.
Chase Stehling added 13 points on 5-7 shooting and was 3-6 from the free throw line with a team-high nine rebounds and two blocks.
Hunter Caldwell scored 12 points with six assists and two steals.
The Knights travel to Lincolnton on Friday.