DENVER – It was a tale of two halves at East Lincoln Tuesday, March 5, with a trip to the West Regional Final on the line against the East Rutherford Cavaliers.
Defense was optional from the opening tip, as the teams traded baskets on each of their first four possessions, with senior Sidney Dollar scoring East Lincoln’s first 8 points. East Rutherford scored on each of its first seven possessions en route to building a 31-22 lead at the end of the first quarter, and a 49-39 advantage at halftime.
The Mustangs returned to the court with a different energy for the second half, promptly erasing their 10-point deficit by the 5-minute mark of the third quarter. While East Lincoln is known for its high-powered offense, it was the defensive end of the floor that made the difference against the Cavaliers.
Despite being on pace to flirt with the 100-point threshold at halftime, East Rutherford managed just four points in the third quarter, as the Mustangs stormed back to cut the deficit to 53-51 heading to the final frame.
Then, with the momentum on its side and the home crowd in a frenzy, the Mustangs took control late to claim a 74-65 victory. With the win, East Lincoln improves to 29-2 overall this season, and its 29 wins are a new program record.
Dollar led the way for East Lincoln in his last home game as a Mustang, racking up 35 points while adding 16 rebounds and 6 assists. Fellow senior John Bean added 15 points, including a few crucial 3-pointers during East Lincoln’s comeback, and junior Justin Kuthan chipped in with 14 points.
East Lincoln will now advance to the West Regional Final Saturday, March 9, to play the Forest Hills Yellow Jackets at noon in the Tarlton Complex on the campus of Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory. East Lincoln will have revenge on its mind, as the Yellow Jackets of Marshville eliminated the Mustangs in the fourth round of last year’s playoffs en route to a state championship.