By RYAN HERMAN
DENVER –– In a game of runs, Lincoln Charter happened to have the biggest.
The run was also just big enough.
Christian Hilty scored 15 points and hit four 3-pointers, two of which keyed a big second quarter spurt as the Eagles held off a second half rally by Gastonia Highland Tech to win 40-35 in the teams’ Southern Piedmont 1A Conference opener on Tuesday.
Lincoln Charter ended the first half on a 13-2 run, a stretch that began with a Hilty 3 in transition and ended with a 3 by Hilty that gave the Eagles a 20-10 lead at the break.
They stretched their lead out to 23-10 to start the third quarter –– on a 3 by Hilty –– before the Rams answered with an 11-2 run to make it 25-21 at the end of the quarter.
A layup by Matthew Greene with 4:50 left in the game put Lincoln Charter up 10 at 31-21. Highland Tech got it down to five on three separate occasions after that, but each time the Eagles were able to fight it off.
“We’ve got several kids missing tonight, so our continuity wasn’t there. But thank goodness Christian was there to knock down some 3s,” Lincoln Charter coach Bradley Gabriel said. “They gave us every opportunity to take the game, but we didn’t capitalize. We had too many mistakes, too many turnovers. We let them back into the game, and that’s something we’ve got to fix.”
The Eagles (5-4, 1-0) raced out to a 7-1 lead to start before Highland Tech scored seven unanswered points of its own to lead 8-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Lincoln Charter opened things up in the second, hitting 4 of its 7 3-point attempts while holding the Rams (3-3, 0-1) without a field goal.
Down 23-10, Bronson Short, who led Highland Tech with 11 points and nine rebounds, ended a field goal drought that spanned more than a quarter when his three-point play made it 23-13 at the 3:39 mark of the third period.
The And-1 spurred an 11-2 run, which cut the Eagles’ lead down to four –– the closest it had been in nearly two quarters –– at 25-21.
During the stretch they had eight turnovers, and hit just 2 of 10 shots –– most wide open –– to allow the Rams to climb back in. But they didn’t climb all the way back.
“We just didn’t play well, but (the Rams) had a lot to do with that. Their defense is pesky,” Gabriel said.
Lincoln Charter, which has won two in a row and three of its last four since suffering a three-game losing streak earlier in the season, didn’t have its best shooting performance of the year. The Eagles hit seven 3s in 24 attempts, but they always seemed to fall when needed most.
The win didn’t come the way Gabriel expects them to, but to open conference play with a victory was definitely satisfying.
“We haven’t been shooting well all year (so) hopefully this will get us going a little bit. With our size, we don’t have really any post presence, so we’ve got to shoot the ball along with the 3. If we’re hitting the 3 we’re pretty tough, and it opens gaps,” he said. “But tonight was just one of those ugly nights. (We’re) 1 and 0 in the conference, so we’ll take it.”
LINCOLN CHARTER 51
HIGHLAND TECH 29
Lincoln Charter’s girls fought off an ugly first half and forced the Rams into 36 turnovers to run away with the league win in the second and stay unbeaten on the year.
Victoria Cobb had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Eagles, who led by only seven at 20-13 at the break after a first half that featured 32 combined turnovers and 32 combined missed shots.
Caitlyn Miller scored nine points and Madi Neesmith added nine points and 10 rebounds for Lincoln Charter (6-0, 1-0). Madison Armstrong led the Rams (4-2, 0-1) with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
The Eagles will be in action again tonight when they travel to East Lincoln.