Special to LTN
DENVER — North Lincoln girls varsity basketball coach Lynn Rhyne has seen everyone take their best shot at stopping No. 22 this season.
Man-to-man. Zone. Box-and-one. You name it, she’s seen it.
On Friday night, East Lincoln played most of the first half in a box-and-one with several players chasing around North Lincoln junior Antaijah Easter. The Lady Mustangs slowed Easter, at times, even frustrated her into missing some shots. But as scorers do, Easter kept shooting, the shots started falling and the Lady Knights rolled to a 61-32 victory.
The 5-foot-9 Easter scored 34 points — her third consecutive game with 30-plus points and seventh of the season. She uncharacteristically missed five consecutive free throws in the first half (she made 6 of 12 in the game) and made just 1 of 6 field goal attempts in the third quarter. She more than made up for it in second and fourth quarters.
She scored 24 of her points in those two quarters as North Lincoln pulled away in the second quarter and iced the game in the fourth.
“She did struggle a little bit tonight with her free throw shooting,” Rhyne said of Easter. “Of course, any other time she would have hit 10 out of 10. I think she was kind of pushing it a little bit because this is a big rivalry game. She made up for it when she hit some 3-pointers. That’s what I told her tonight — don’t stress too much over that, don’t get frustrated because sometimes they fall, sometimes they don’t.”
The Lady Knights (11-5, 5-1 Southern Piedmont Conference) led just 12-6 after the first quarter, but Easter and Sidney Russell combined for 17 of the Lady Knights 19 points in the second quarter to build a 31-12 halftime lead.
Payton Bruce scored eight of her 12 points in the third quarter for North Lincoln.
“We were trying to take advantage of the open spot, which was down on the low block,” Rhyne said. “Payton was doing a good job, Lyndsi (Pound) was doing a good job, Nicole (Barbieri) came in there and made some good passes underneath. I think they started working a little bit more on that to free Antaijah up because when that happens, they pull the defense off and it frees her up.”
Jennifer Allison led the Lady Mustangs (1-12, 1-5) with 15 points and Ashlee Frazier added 13.
Easter made six 3-pointers for the second consecutive game, tying her season high. Russell finished with six points and Pound also added six for the Lady Knights.
North Lincoln played Lake Norman Charter on Tuesday in a battle of 5-1 teams in league play.