DANVILLE — The Lincoln County Lady Patriots enjoyed another happy ending to the 45th District Tournament.
No. 1 seed Lincoln County walked away with its sixth straight district title Friday night by defeating host Boyle County 62-45 in the championship game.
Senior forward Sydney Harris, who had 19 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots, helped lead Lincoln’s sedate post-game celebration.
“We like winning,” said Harris. “We’ve won (district) every year since I’ve been in the seventh grade, and we played to win tonight.”
Lincoln (24-5) and Boyle (17-13) were embattled in a close game early, but the¿Lady Patriots used a 14-4 scoring tear over the second and third quarters to break open the game and beat the Lady Rebels for the third time this season.
Even after sweeping Boyle in the regular season,¿Lincoln coach Cassandra McWhorter knew contending for the district title at Rebel Arena would not be an easy task.
“They’ve not had a lot of success in the recent past, but they’ve got a taste of it this season and they are playing really good basketball, so I knew it was going to be a battle,” she said. “I told the girls that Boyle County is playing very well right now. Coach (Greg) Edwards has done a great job with his girls, and they are hungry. I knew with it being on their home floor that they wanted this.”
Boyle did want the title. But Greg Edwards also knew his team had a strong opponent to overcome to get it.
“Give Lincoln County credit,”¿Edwards said. “That’s a heckuva team. They’ve been here before. They’ve got Final Four experience in the state tournament. They don’t flinch in this kind of situation. But our effort was there. I thought our girls came out and battled tough early in the game. We had the pace the way we wanted it. We just couldn’t buy a basket. It was a bad night on offense.”
Despite shooting just 22 percent (12-for-54) from the field overall, Boyle held its own early.
Harris helped get Lincoln off to a 7-4 start by hitting two buckets in the paint and sinking a free throw toss. Marlee Smith, who led Boyle with 14 points, and Dee Foster, who finished with nine points and a game-high 11 rebounds, had a bucket apiece for Boyle in the opening run. Smith added two free throws midway of the first to make it a 7-6 ballgame, then Foster followed with a putback and a 3-point goal to give the Lady Rebels their first lead, 11-7.
Lincoln’s Emily Fox, who had 16 points, four rebounds, three steals and three blocked shots, followed Foster’s shot with her own 3 to regain the lead only to have Foster hit again to give Boyle a 13-10 edge.
Fox converted on two free throws after a steal to cut the margin to one then Spangler, who double-doubled with 10 points and 10 rebounds along with three assists and two steals, stepped behind the arc for a 3-pointer for a 15-13 Lincoln lead after one quarter.
Boyle regained the lead in the first minute of the second quarter, with Lauren Richards opening the quarter scoring to tie the game at 15-all and Hannah Harris following with a putback for another Boyle lead.
Unfortunately, for Boyle, those two shots would be the only ones to fall until just 59 seconds remained in the first half as the Lady Rebels struggled on 3-for-13 shooting. The Lady Rebels went a span of three minutes without scoring a single point.
Lincoln’s offense also struggled early in the second quarter, going 3 minutes, 45 seconds before getting a field goal, but the Lady Patriots made up for the missed shots at the foul line. Tiandra Hocker collected two free throws and Spangler got one to ease Lincoln on top 18-17 before Ciara Saylor finally hit for a 3-pointer to make it 21-17 with 4:15 left in the first half.
Lincoln’s lead was 26-22 when Fox went coast-to-coast off a steal to set off a 6-0 run. Sydney Harris finished the run with a bank shot and layup for a 32-22 margin with 1:24 to go. Chelsea Gill interrupted the run with a jumper and Cammi Holton and Smith collected a free throw apiece for Boyle before Fox closed the half with a layup for a 34-26 Lady Pat lead.
“Tonight, we just couldn’t get anything to go offensively,” Edwards said. “That’s partly because of Lincoln’s defense, but we just had open shots that we didn’t get them to go down. We missed 28 shots in the paint and missed nine free throws tonight. You are not going to do that against a good team and expect to win.”
Lincoln, which shot 45 percent (20-for-44) from the field overall, finished 7-for-13 in the second quarter.
And the shots kept falling to start the second half, with Lincoln going 3-for-3 in a 6-0 run. Sydney Harris hit twice in the run and Spencer Sims hit inside to make it a 40-26 ballgame.
“I knew they (Lady Rebels) were going to be a challenge and we would just have to be patient,” Harris said “We just came in and said we have to be mature and we have to keep our calm. Coach McWhorter always tells us that we can’t win it in one quarter so we have to keep playing four quarters. We did that tonight. We knew we had to play Lincoln County basketball, and that’s what we did.”
Smith converted on a three-point play late in the third to trim the Lincoln lead to 42-34, but the Lady Patriots answered last with Sims draining a 3-pointer and Spangler picking up a three-point play to put the margin at 48-34 going into the fourth quarter.