By RYAN HERMAN
VALE –– For three quarters Saturday West Lincoln looked well on its way to its first win streak in more than a year and to a surprising Peoples Bank Holiday Clash boys basketball championship.
But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. And Bandys did the finishing.
Colton Medlin scored 23 points and Dylan Wambold and River Copeland came up big down the stretch as the Trojans erased a late double-digit deficit to beat the Rebels 86-79 and claim the post-Christmas tournament title.
Bandys (5-5) trailed 63-48 early in the final period before beginning their run. They forced West Lincoln (1-10) into 14 fourth-quarter turnovers, getting it out of an offensive rhythm that had been nearly lights out the first 24 minutes.
Wambold scored 18 points and Copeland added 13 points off the bench, and the pair combined for 22 of those points in the fourth quarter alone to give the Trojans their first win streak of the year and to deny West Lincoln back-to-back wins for the first time since winning its first two games of 2012.
And it started with a technical foul.
“We knew if we were within 10 or 12 we thought we could make a little run. Our goal was to cut it by four or five by the 3-minute mark … and just have a shot at the end to win it,” Bandys coach Scott Stilwell said. “We just had to pick up the defensive intensity. When I called that last timeout –– when I got the technical –– and told them we’ve got to play full-court (defense) the whole way and be in their face the entire time and try to get some turnovers. … I just think we got a little momentum going.
“Basketball’s a game of runs and I think we had the last run.”
Out of the timeout a steal turned into a 3-pointer for Bandys’ Sawyer Frye, who had 12 points on four made 3s, then Wambold took a steal to the rim to pull it within 69-62 with 4:38 to play.
Free throws by Medlin, who was named the tournament MVP, and Farod Hooker, made it a two-possession game at 69-64 with 4:24 left.
Medlin picked up his fifth foul 16 seconds later, but without him his teammates ended things on a 22-10 run aided by 13 points off turnovers.
“We just did a real good job of turning up the intensity a little bit and getting those turnovers to help us get some points,” Stilwell said.
West Lincoln dominated the first three-fourths of the four-game nightcap and enjoyed a comfortable 61-48 lead with 8 minutes to play.
The Rebels, fresh off their first victory since beating Morganton Patton on Nov. 30, 2012, after knocking off North Lincoln 75-65 in an opening round game on Friday, connected on their first five 3-point shots Saturday and built an early double-digit lead that stayed there until Frye’s 3 made it 69-60 just inside of 5 minutes left.
West Lincoln’s Todric Anderson matched Medlin with 23 points, eight in a first quarter that saw it shoot 77 percent (10 for 13), hit seven 3s and lead 26-14.
The hot shooting from behind the arc cooled off, but the open looks continued for the Rebels as they hit 9 of 19 3-point attempts.
But they were limited to just eight field goal attempts in the final period –– making only two –– thanks to the plethora of turnovers.
“We told them at halftime that (the Trojans) are going to go on a hot streak, and we have to be able to weather that and keep scoring. They did the same thing North (Lincoln) did and that was extend some pressure. The thing that that did was it got us out of our offense” West Lincoln coach Karl Sain said.
Bandys also started hitting its shots, particularly Medlin.
The senior forward hit just two of his first seven shots before hitting eight in a row and finishing 10 of 17 from the field. He also tied a team-high in rebounds with eight (Hooker).
“They also started converting,” Sain said. “We had been playing some zone and were sagging off certain guys and those certain guys started hitting shots.”
Jelani Culliver added 15 points for Bandys, which trailed 40-28 at the break.
Harry Huddleston scored 13 points, Austin May scored 12 and Samuel Redding added 10 for the Rebels, whose win over North Lincoln on Friday –– another game in which they let a big lead slip away late before closing it out with free throws –– ended a streak of 30 consecutive losses.
Sain is hoping the good showing in the tournament will carry over into the meat of Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference play, which picks back up at Bunker Hill on Friday.
“It was fun to be a part of. We scored our season-high in points because we were scoring well, they were scoring well. It was just kind of who was hot at the end and that was Bandys,” Sain said.
“We’ve definitely got some confidence. … We’re going to use this to try and get some momentum going into conference play.”
WEST LINCOLN 16
The Trojans used a smothering defense to force the Rebels into 44 turnovers to win the girls portion of the Peoples Bank Holiday Clash.
Tournament MVP Madi Story scored a game-high 17 points to lead five Bandys players in double figures. Haleigh Lackey scored 15 points, Sara Goble had 14 points, Morgan Bibey 13 and Ace Easter scored 12.
Erin Huff, Heather Truesdale and Madison Ferguson scored four points each for the Rebels (5-6), who turned it over on their first seven possessions and had it stolen from them 30 times –– seven by Lackey.
The Trojans (10-0) reached the 90-point mark for the fourth time this season and for the third straight game.
In its last three games, Bandys has outscored its opponents –– East Lincoln, North Lincoln and West Lincoln –– 271-51.