Special to LTN
DENVER — East Lincoln varsity boys basketball senior guard Tyler Brock goes through the same routine on gamedays.
Wake up, go practice and shoot around, go to school, return home, stretch and return to school for the pregame walkthrough.
And by the time the 6-foot-5 guard had gone through all that pregame work Friday, he knew one thing: He was feeling it.
Brock sank 7 of 11 shots, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range, and scored 23 points to lead the Mustangs past North Lincoln, 67-53, in a Southern Piedmont Conference matchup.
“You’re in the zone,” Brock said of his shooting performance. “All you want is the ball and you just need enough space to get it off and then you know it’s good. If I hit two or three and I get the feeling, I know what to do and I got it. But if I’m off, I go to the rack, go inside and get a couple of rebounds, build up my momentum and start back up.”
On Friday against the rival Knights, he starting quickly — but not as quickly as North Lincoln.
Hunter Caldwell’s 3-pointer with 4:45 remaining in the opening quarter gave the Knights an early 8-0 lead and East Lincoln coach Neil Hodges called timeout to settle down his team.
Out of the timeout, Brock sank a 3-pointer from the wing, turned a steal into a breakaway dunk and buried another three-pointer in a 1:04 span to pull the Mustangs even, 8-8 — and just as importantly, stir the full-house crowd into a frenzy. From there, five more Mustangs scored en route to a 17-11 advantage after one quarter.
“It shocked us,” Brock said of North Lincoln’s fast start. “But we knew we were bigger than them and just had to slow it down and execute to see what mismatches we had and go from there. Every time we play them, we know the crowd gets into it. We don’t let that in our head. We know this is our house, we play here every day. We just go out there and see what we can do. It was a fun atmosphere — I love it, I love it.”
Brock knocked down two more threes in the second quarter, connecting on his first five shots from the field before misfiring. His second triple of the quarter gave the Mustangs (11-4, 4-2) their biggest lead of the game, 33-18.
But the Knights fought back all night. Caldwell scored 10 first-half points as the Knights (9-7, 2-4) pulled to within 34-26 at the half. His 3-pointer with 4:25 left in the third quarter cut the Mustangs lead to 39-36.
East Lincoln’s Chazz Surratt (19 points) hit a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter and put the Mustangs on top, 50-41. But a Chase Stehling basket and two Caldwell free throws cut the lead to 50-45.
Then it was Brock’s time again.
He drilled another 3-pointer and tipped in a Surratt miss to stretch the lead to 55-45 and the Knights didn’t get closer.
“He made the big shots tonight,” Hodges said of Brock. “He’s a senior and those kinds of things are expected of you when you’re a senior. He did make some good shots. It was a nice team victory. We thought everybody played decently. Our problem all year has been consistency. We’ll play very good for a couple of minutes and then not so good for a couple of minutes. We’re hoping we can make the good periods longer and the bad periods shorter.”
The Mustangs made 10 of 16 from behind the arc. Surratt was 3 of 4 and Domonique Smith made 2 of 3. East Lincoln center Charlie Hills returned to the court after missing a couple of games and added 10 points, a team-high eight rebounds and four blocks.
Caldwell led the Knights with 15 points, while Landon Yarborough added 12 points and 12 rebounds.
East Lincoln’s size gave the Knights fits throughout the game, forcing them into 15 of 49 shooting.
“The objective of every team’s defense is to make it as difficult shot as you can,” Hodges said. “We were able to do that. They played tough, they played. Give them credit. It was a good high school basketball game. I think everybody that was here enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun.”
East Lincoln plays Highland Tech at home Tuesday and North Lincoln is home against Lake Norman Charter.