DENVER – The East Lincoln girls set the school record for wins in a basketball season Saturday night, reaching the 30-win plateau and shattering a mark that stood for 50 years.
And the first person coach Jason Otey sought out after the 55-33 victory over St. Stephens was the man whose record his team eclipsed.
“After I shook hands with the (St. Stephens) coaches, I made a beeline for coach (Henry) Barkley,” Otey said in reference to the coaching legend who guided the 1973 East Lincoln girls to a state 2A title and a 29-0 record.
“I knew this is a special record for him, but he wanted us to break it. He has been telling me that for a while. He and I had a nice little moment over there about it.”
According to Otey, Barkley has followed the current edition of the Lady Mustangs all season and attends games as his health permits.
It was East Lincoln’s fourth win of the season over fellow Western Foothills Conference member St. Stephens, and the victory came much easier than the 62-53 verdict over the Lady Indians in the conference tournament final Feb. 17 at North Iredell.
In the earlier matchup, senior forward Ginny Overbay was out of the lineup and a couple of players were under the weather, Otey said.
“It helps to have all your players there. We also had a better commitment to the scout and the film sessions than before. We were able to maintain our energy and focus from start to finish.”
Freshman guard Emma Montanari made sure East Lincoln got a fast start out of the gate, contributing 10 points in a 19-9 first quarter run that set the tone for the game. Overbay put an exclamation point on the end of the opening period with a putback at the buzzer.
A 13-5 scoring edge in the second quarter sent the Lady Mustangs into the break with a 32-14 lead, and they pushed the margin to 27 points (49-22) through three quarters of play.
Montanari scored 15 of her game-high 20 points from behind the 3-point arc and recorded four rebounds, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
Fellow freshman and backcourt mate Kiara Anderson had nine points and six assists, while sophomore center Hailey McFadden chipped in 11 points and pulled down eight boards.
Kennady Blevins (15 points) and Molli Harris (13) paced St. Stephens, which finished its season 21-9.
The No. 2 seed in the western bracket, East Lincoln took on No. 14 Freedom Tuesday at home in the fourth round.
SSHS 9 5 8 11—33
ELHS 19 13 17 6—55
SSHS: Molli Harris 13, Kennady Blevins 15, A. Reid 4, K. Moulton 1.
ELHS: Emma Montanari 20, Hailey McFadden 11, K. Anderson 9, G. Overbay 9, A. Hege 3, M. Bissinger 3
UP NEXT: East Lincoln (30-0) was to host Freedom (15-12) in a 2A West Regional semifinal game on Tuesday night.
(Published March 1, 2023)
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