By MICHAEL HUGHES
LINCOLNTON –– North Lincoln students stormed their home floor Friday after their varsity boys beat Lincolnton in basketball for the first time in almost seven years.
Sophomore point guard Zach McGinnis’s gutsy h with 35 seconds to play put the Knights up for good after the Wolves went up by a point with under a minute left.
North Lincoln (4-1) prevailed in the steamy gym, 47-42.
“I just shot it,” said a smiling McGinnis after the game. “(I tried to) stay comfortable and do what I’ve worked on all year.”
Sweltering conditions and packed-in zone defenses fueled the low-scoring tilt on a balmy evening. Sophomore wing Chantz Petrie led both teams in scoring with 12 points. Jordan Easter was the only Lincolnton player in double figures with 10.
“We had made a mental mistake to put them back in the lead,” North coach Eric King said of Easter’s follow of his own miss that put the Wolves up 42-41 in the final minute. “To be able to come back with a bunch of sophomores, and then have one of those sophomores knock down that big shot, it was a turning point.”
Lincolnton (0-1), playing its first basketball games after the football team’s three-game playoff run, led 21-16 at halftime before being outscored by 10 in the second half.
“We knew we would have some mistakes in the game tonight,” Wolves coach Bob Cowie said. “I’m not going to make any excuses; we’ve just got to get better. You turn it over 35 times against a team that’s sitting back in a 2-3 zone, there is no excuse to do that.
“We knew they were going to zone us. I’ll take responsibility for that, because we did not execute in the half-court (offense). We did fight to get ourselves back in the game. (McGinnis) hit a big 3 on us –– but we’ll get better.”
The Knights stayed in a 2-3 zone the entire game but found themselves out of position frequently in the first half. Coach King commended the loud and demonstrative home crowd for keeping his team in the game early.
“Good crowd tonight,” he stressed. “The guys were a little bit over-pumped, which is what you’ll see with a young team.”
North Lincoln’s 6-foot-6, 245-pound senior Chase Stehling and 6-3 junior Landon Yarbrough both picked up three fouls early into the second quarter, but came back to make a difference in the second half.
“That was a huge difference,” said King. “Playing good defense allowed us to relax a little bit on offense. [Our younger players] still have a tendency to get nervous. They have to learn how to adjust to that. It was a back-and-forth game there for a little while.”
The same teams go at it again tonight at Lincolnton.
“They were just getting their guys back this week,” King said of the Wolves, who had switched from football cleats to sneakers.
“Conditioning-wise, it was a hot gym. My guys kept complaining about the heat. I said, ‘Both teams are in it. Zip it and let’s go.’ They turned the ball over quite a bit—both teams did.
“Of course, they’ll be at their crowd (today). It’s been a long time since we’ve beat Lincolnton. I expect them to be ready for revenge. It should be a great game.”
“I expect another dogfight,” added Cowie.
NORTH LINCOLN 29
The Wolves got 11 points from Jasmine Vilorie and 10 from Saylor Whitesides as they pulled away after the first quarter to rout the Knights.
Lincolnton (1-0) led North Lincoln (0-5) 10-8 after 8 minutes of play, but outscored the Knights 37-21 the rest of the way.
Cailee Franklin led North Lincoln with 12 points and Rachel Nuhfer added nine.