DENVER — The Lincolnton Lady Wolves girls varsity basketball team and the Lake Norman Charter Lady Knights tied for the regular-season Southern Piedmont 1A/2A Conference championship.
But Lincolnton made a case for the title of top team in the SPC with a 45-44 win over Lake Norman Charter in the championship game of the conference tournament on Friday.
The Lady Wolves fought back from a 22-19 halftime deficit and made key free throws in the game’s final minute, including a game-winner by senior Alexis Killian with four seconds left.
“We had to match their intensity but also we talked a lot about being gutsy and not being afraid to fail,” Lincolnton head coach Jimmy Carr said. “I told them that if they go out there and put it on the line, I thought we had a chance to win. It was one of the gutsiest performances I’ve ever seen. It was a great atmosphere and both teams put on a great show for our conference.”
Lincolnton senior Treasure Avery pulled up at the top of the key and landed a short jumper that put Lincolnton ahead 32-30 with two seconds left in the third quarter. Brittany Buckstad made a layup and a field goal to give Lake Norman Charter at 33-32 lead in the opening minute of the fourth quarter but Sydney Devine hit a 3-pointer to give the Lady Wolves a 35-33 cushion with 6:32 left.
“I told them that if they got an opportunity, they can’t shy away from it,” Carr said. “I told them that if the ball comes to you and you’re open, you have to be gutsy enough to shoot it.”
The Lady Knights took back the lead with back-to-back field goals by Carolyn Huddy and Alex Busch but Devine made a one-handed layup to tie the game at 37-37. Bridget Derr made a pair of free throws before Lake Norman Charter closed the gap to one point, 39-38, with a free throw by Buckstad.
Avery followed that score up with a pair of free throws and, after a layup by Busch, Killian made two free throws to give Lincolnton a 43-40 lead.
Lake Norman Charter’s Ezinne Mbamalu pulled in an offensive board and made a layup to cut Lincolnton’s lead to 43-42 with 29 seconds left. Killian made a free throw but Busch knotted the score at 44-44 with seven seconds left.
Killian was fouled with four seconds left and made her second free throw attempt, giving Lincolnton the lead.
The Lady Knights attempted a long inbound pass but Derr snatched it out of the air as time expired.
Lincolnton opens the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2A state playoffs today at home against Smoky Mountain at 7 p.m.