HICKORY—East Lincoln head coach Chip Ashley had been begging for his team to get a stop all night. Little did he know that his Mustangs would get the stop that they needed with less than ten seconds to play in overtime, and hold on to defeat the second-seeded West Caldwell Warriors 70-67 in overtime Thursday night at CVCC in Hickory.
With East Lincoln up 69-67, West Caldwell called a timeout with 16.8 seconds to play in the overtime period. Junior guard Trevon Hall got the ball, penetrated into the lane and put up a shot.
When that shot rimmed out and came off the side of the goal, Alec Burleson secured the rebound for the Mustangs, and was fouled with just 3.9 seconds left.
The senior made the first of two free throws, but missed the second. The Warriors pushed the ball into the frontcourt and Kaleb Dula’s desperation three-point attempt just missed, giving East Lincoln (18-8) the win in the semifinals of the Southern District-7 2A conference tournament.
After the first five minutes of the game, fans may not have believed that the contest would turn out this tight. The Mustangs reeled off the first 15 points of the game, mainly with senior Cameron Dollar knocking down open shots, or finding open teammates under the basket for easy layups. West Caldwell didn’t get on the scoreboard until the 2:53 mark of the opening quarter.
But like good teams do, the Warriors wouldn’t go away. Trailing 20-11 after a quarter, West Caldwell outscored East Lincoln 17-8 in the second period to draw even, including a 14-0 run of their own midway through the quarter.
The second half was highly contested, with several lead changes and both teams trying to stay out of foul trouble.
But down the stretch, it was the Warriors that lost two key players. Fred Patterson fouled out of the game with 3:14 to play, and Titus Tucker followed him to the bench with 1:25 to go and the Mustangs holding a one-point edge.
Both teams missed opportunities to win the game in regulation. With the score tied at 63 and just 46 seconds remaining, Dollar missed a pair of foul shots that would have given East lincoln the lead. Twenty seconds later John Bean missed a short jumper with the score tied.
And with West Caldwell (18-7) holding the ball for the last shot, Shy Felder got called for an illegal screen with 8.8 seconds left, giving the Mustangs the ball back. Following a held ball on East Lincoln’s possession with five seconds on the clock, Hall missed a three at the buzzer that would have won the game for the Warriors.
But in the end, it would be the Mustangs who would prevail, setting up a championship matchup with rival Lincolnton tonight at 8 p.m. at CVCC.
Dollar led all scorers with 32 points for East Lincoln, while Coleson Leach added 18. Bean was also in double figures with 10.
Tucker had 16 points to lead the Warriors. Felder and Hall added 15 each, and Patterson had 12 for West Caldwell.
East Lincoln 20 8 18 17 7 – 70
West Caldwell 11 17 15 20 4 – 67
East Lincoln: Cameron Dollar 32, Coleson Leach 16, John Bean 10, Burleson 4, B. Zirkle 4, S. Dollar 2, Horne 2. West Caldwell: Titus Tucker 16, Trevon Hall 15, Shy Felder 15, Fred Patterson 12, Dula 5, Brooks 4.