By MICHAEL HUGHES
PUMPKIN CENTER –– Two evenly-matched teams went down to the wire for the second time on the hardwood this season. The result was the same, as North Iredell again bested North Lincoln, this time 52-47.
The Raiders nipped the Knights by four on Dec. 19 in Olin.
Six-foot-four junior Brantley Chambers pounded the offensive glass in Friday’s win with three stick-backs in the closing minutes while scoring 11 of his game-high 18 for North Iredell. Junior guard Kirkland St. John added 12 second-half points in a reserve role, including a clutch 4-for-4 effort from the free throw line with the game on the line.
“(St. John) had ice water in his veins,” said North Iredell coach Brian Cantrell. “It got into a very ugly game there for awhile. We kept our composure.
“I told the guys, ‘It doesn’t matter what anybody does; if we play good defense and rebound, we’re going to leave here smiling.”
A key moment in the nip-and-tuck tilt came in the third quarter, mere seconds after North Lincoln guard Zach McGinnis knotted the score at 29 with two free throws that were awarded after he was fouled intentionally on a drive to the rim. Chase Stehling, the Knights’ 6-4, 245-pound pivot, was then called for an offensive charge on a post move, and then for a technical after what appeared to be an accidental bump of the official, who was facing the scorer’s table.
St. John’s two foul shots gave the Raiders a two-point lead before North Lincoln closed the quarter with a flurry, leading 37-34 after three.
“The effort level was like I wanted it to be, but the mental focus is still not,” said Knights coach Eric King. “(That was a) big momentum swing with the technical. To have that match struck back in the other direction, it was kind of demoralizing.”
After being outscored 19-9 in the third, North Iredell played man-to-man in the fourth quarter to swing the momentum back its way.
“We had poise,” Cantrell said. “They tried to trap us hard at the end, (and) we got some nice easy buckets.”
A Kirkland 3-pointer –– the Raiders’ only made basket in the last eight minutes other than the four by Chambers –– gave the North Iredell its first lead of the fourth quarter.
McGinnis scored seven of his team-leading 16 in the fourth for North Lincoln (6-14, 1-9), which has now lost three close games in a row. North Iredell (13-5, 6-3) remains a game up on Statesville in the 3A portion of the North Piedmont 3A/4A Conference.
“What we’re looking for is consistent effort,” King said. “We’ve got the physical part down, but we’ve got to get the intelligence and the emotional part in.”
NORTH IREDELL 46
NORTH LINCOLN 15
North Iredell’s girls outscored the Knights 22-3 in the first half and never looked back to improve to 10-7 overall, 6-3 in league play.
Rachel Nuhfer scored a team-high 11 points for North Lincoln (0-20, 0-10), which didn’t score in the first quarter.