LEXINGTON – Lincoln County hoped to hand Lexington Catholic a home loss Friday, but the Lady Knights stood their ground to turn back the Lady Patriots 60-55.
Lincoln (6-2) had the points it needed to win from the field, connecting on 23 of 50 shot attempts, including three 3-pointers for 49 points while Lexington Catholic was just 14-for-39 from the field, with six treys for 34 points.
But the Lady Knights (4-4) outshot the Lady Patriots at the free throw line to claim victory, sinking 26 shots on 28 trips to the charity stripe compared to Lincoln’s 6-for-9 effort.
“They got to the free throw line a lot. They attacked the rim well,” Lincoln coach Cassandra McWhorter said. “I thought we attacked the rim pretty good ourselves, but they go to the free throw line 28 times and we go 9 times. That’s the difference in the ballgame tonight – the free throw line. We shot the ball well from the floor from 2-points, we shared the ball well, we had a lot of assists.”
“I’m not upset with our girls’ effort. I thought we played hard, we played together. We just couldn’t seem to get to the free throw line as many times as they did.”
Lexington Catholic senior Octavia Wilson outshot Lincoln from the free throw line all by herself, going 14-for-16 as she led all scorers with 22 points.
“(Wilson) stepped up and had a great ballgame for them, shooting the majority of their free throws,” McWhorter said. “That’s huge to get to the free throw line 16 times, and then she’s 14-for-16.”
Lincoln led for most of the ballgame, with Sydney Harris putting up the first bucket of the game for a 2-0 lead and her 1,000th career point. The senior forward, who finished with 12 points, tallied half of her points in the first frame as the Lady Patriots posted a 21-16 lead.
Emily Fox, who led Lincoln with 19 points, drained two 3-pointers in the first to help build on the lead. Rachel Spangler also hit from 3, Kourtney Belcher, who finished with 14 points, scored on a putback and Spencer Sims hit in the closing seconds to give the Lady Pats a 21-14 edge.
Rachel Black, who had 10 points for the Lady Knights, sank two free throws with 6.9 seconds left to make it a five-point game.
Lexington Catholic got limited looks at the basket in the second quarter with Lincoln forcing six turnovers and controlling the boards. The Lady Knights outrebounded the Lady Patriots 31-22 overall, but Lincoln grabbed six of LexCath’s seven missed shot attempts in the second.
Blake hit the Lady Knights’ two goals in the second quarter, the first coming with just 1:43 left in the first half and the second a quarter-ending layup to get her team within 31-25 of Lincoln at the break. The Lady Knights went 5-for-6 at the line in the second quarter.
Most of the LexCath misses came early in the second quarter but Lincoln wasn’t able to capitalize due to its own offensive struggles, going 5-for-15 from the field and turning the ball over three times. The Lady Patriots pulled ahead 25-16 off baskets by Fox and Harris, however, Lincoln iced over from the field after Harris’ bucket, going scoreless for the next 3 minutes.
Belcher ended the scoring drought with 2:26 left in the half off a long pass from Spangler, Tiandra Hocker drove inside for two then Belcher hit again to put Lincoln up 31-23 only to have Blake close the half with her layup.
LexCath finally closed the gap on Lincoln in the third quarter, with Sarah Cawood, who finished with 11 points, nailing back-to-back 3-pointers to open the second half and even the game at 31-all.
Belcher answered with two quick baskets for Lincoln to edge the Lady Pats up 35-31, but the Lady Knights were not going to surrender. Wilson went to the line for two free throws and Hannah Gadberry drove inside for a layup before Suzanne Miller stepped behind the arc for a 3-pointer and the 38-37 lead, the first for LexCath since a 10-7 edge in the first quarter.
The Lady Pats pulled in front 43-40 off baskets by Harris, Belcher and Fox but Wilson would hit from 3 to tie it back up.
The score was deadlocked at 45-all going into the fourth quarter.
“I felt like we were in control of the game the whole game, but they stepped up big in the third quarter and hit a lot of 3s there that gave them momentum,”¿McWhorter said. “I thought that was a shift in the game when they started hitting those shots. The girls still responded. We bounced back and kept ourselves in it, but we couldn’t seem to extend our lead or capitalize on any of their turnovers.”
Chansler Gilbert opened the fourth for Lincoln with a jumper and, after two Bailey Browning free throws for LexCath, Ciara Saylor got one free throw toss and Fox hit two foul shots for a 50-47 Lady Pat lead.
Wilson erased the lead with the Lady Knights’ final field goal, converting on a three-point play to make it 50-50 with 5:08 left in the game.
The Lady Knights wouldn’t need another field goal. They went to the foul line to ice the win, going 10-for-10 in the closing minutes.
“Lexington Catholic is a good solid team. They do a lot of things well,” said McWhorter. “This (loss) is not how you want to start your holiday tournament, but we’ll learn from our mistakes and move on.”