VALE — When the North Lincoln Lady Knights varsity basketball team needs points on the scoreboard, they don’t have to look beyond their “Ace.”
Junior guard Antaijah “Ace” Easter scored 34 points with four rebounds, four assists and four steals in North Lincoln’s 74-54 Southern Piedmont Conference win over the West Lincoln Lady Rebels on Friday.
Easter went 6-11 from the free throw line, shot 11-25 and made six 3-pointers — several from far beyond the 3-point line.
The win puts North Lincoln (10-5, 4-1) one game behind first-place Lincolnton (10-3, 5-0) and tied for second with Lake Norman Charter in the conference standings. North Lincoln travels to Lincolnton on Friday.
West Lincoln (5-8, 3-2) was led by senior Taylor Sutton’s 15 points. She went 6-12 from the free throw line and had five rebounds. Senior Rylee Marsh added 10 points and nine rebounds. Senior Brittany Ormand had a game-high 11 rebounds with five points.
Sutton landed a short-range jumper from the corner less than a minute into the game to put West Lincoln ahead 2-0.
North Lincoln senior Payton Bruce pulled in an offensive board and hit a layup moments later to tie the game, and sophomore forward Lyndsi Pound (4 points) gave North Lincoln the lead with a layup after stealing the ball with five minutes left in the first quarter.
West Lincoln freshman Heather Truesdale knotted the game at 4-4 with a field goal with 4:35 left but Easter then weaved through the West Lincoln defense and took a short jump shot to put the Lady Knights ahead, permanently, 6-4.
Easter’s score touched off a 9-0 run by North Lincoln. Easter landed a field goal, added three points on free throws, and scored on an assist from Bruce. West Lincoln senior Rebecca Owens snapped the streak with a field goal with 2:25 left in the first quarter.
North Lincoln took a 25-11 lead out of the first quarter and pulled ahead further by outscoring the Lady Rebels 20-14 in the second.
Easter hit her fourth 3-pointer of the game from just past midcourt at the halftime buzzer.
West Lincoln showed an offensive spark in the third quarter, outscoring North Lincoln 18-13. Sutton made a field goal with 5:30 left in the period to cut North Lincoln’s lead to 52-31 and then Marsh completed a 3-point play to bring the Lady Rebels to an 18-point deficit. Easter made back-to-back 3-pointers, broken up by a layup from West Lincoln’s Erin Huff, with under four minutes left in the third. The Lady Rebels closed out the third quarter with a 7-0 run that included field goals from Amanda Ritch, Sutton and Madison Ferguson and a free throw by Ormand.
North Lincoln outscored West Lincoln 16-11 in the final quarter. The Lady Rebels pulled within 15 points of North Lincoln with three minutes left in the game when Huff made a pair of free throws but the Lady Knights went on a 7-0 run to take a 72-50 lead with 45 seconds left in the game.