Special to LTN
PUMPKIN CENTER — The North Lincoln girls were the better team on paper entering Friday’s game and in the opening minutes, the Lady Knights made sure Cherryville knew they were the best team on the court, too.
North Lincoln jumped out to a 10-point lead out of the gates and rolled to an easy, 75-44 victory in Southern Piedmont Conference play.
“We started off in the press we’ve been working on and the girls really stepped up on that,” North Lincoln coach Lynn Rhyne said. “I was really pleased with the way we started. We started with good intensity.”
Good intensity combined with an overwhelmed Cherryville squad led to a flurry of Ironmen turnovers and easy baskets for the Lady Knights (8-5, 2-1). Cherryville turned the ball over on its first six possessions and North Lincoln led 10-0 after Antaijah Easter sank a baseline jumper with 5:54 left in the quarter.
When Easter banked in a long three-pointer at the buzzer, the opening quarter was thankfully over for the Ironmen. North Lincoln forced 12 turnovers and held a 22-6 advantage and Cherryville (2-11, 0-3) would not get closer.
Everyone chipped in for the Lady Knights and when Catherine Stegal drained a three-pointer from the corner with 2:56 left to play in the half, they led 36-14 and all eight players had scored.
“It didn’t really matter which five were on the floor, they were all playing together, working hard, looking for each other,” Rhyne said.
Easter led North Lincoln with 27 points and Payton Bruce controlled things under the basket, scoring 12 of her 16 points in the first half. Cailee Franklin and Sidney Russell chipped in eight points apiece.
Latiya McDowell led Cherryville with 13 points and Molly Whitworth added 11.
With a roster that includes two freshmen, three sophomores, two juniors and just one senior (Bruce), Friday night’s effort was the kind Rhyne wants to see consistently. During a two-minute stretch midway through the third quarter, the Lady Knights went on an 11-2 run and got points from five players, including their senior, a junior, a sophomore and freshman.
“Right now, with us being as young as we are, we have to do that – that’s just a given,” Rhyne said. “Nothing is going to come easy. I told them from the beginning, they’re going to have to work for everything they get.”