DENVER – The East Lincoln Mustangs lost for the first time in a double overtime thriller against the Mallard Creek Mavericks in the semifinals of the East Lincoln Winter Jam. The loss snapped an 8-game winning streak to open the season, but the Mustangs bounced back with a 60-53 win over Victory Christian to claim third place in the annual holiday tournament.
The semifinal between the Mustangs and Mavericks was a back-and-forth affair throughout, with Mallard Creek leading 19-17 after the first quarter and East Lincoln edging ahead 33-29 at halftime. The teams then tied at 46 following the third quarter, 57 at the end of regulation and then 65 after the first overtime period before Mallard Creek ultimately prevailed 80-77 in double overtime.
The teams traded baskets throughout the second overtime before East Lincoln’s Sidney Dollar tied the game one last time at 77-77 with a pair of clutch free throws in the game’s final minute. The Mustangs pressured full court after Dollar’s second make, but the Mavericks were able to beat the press and find a wide-open Sincere Washington on the baseline for what proved to be the game-winning jump shot.
Dollar led the way for East Lincoln with 24 points in the loss, scoring 16 in the fourth quarter and overtime with the game on the line despite being hobbled by a sprained ankle in the first quarter. Per usual, the senior swiss army knife did a little bit of everything for the Mustangs, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out 5 assists as well. Senior point guard Ben Zirkle also came alive in crunch time, posting a double-double with 10 points and 12 assists.
East Lincoln showed incredible grit following the heartbreaking semifinal loss, beating Victory Christian in the third-place game without Dollar, the team’s leading scorer, and fellow senior Allden Horne, who also sprained his ankle during the tournament.
Junior big man Justin Kuthan was dominant in the victory, leading all scorers with 27 points while also pulling down 18 rebounds. Fellow junior Myles Adams matched his career-high scoring output posted in the semifinal by adding 11 more points to get East Lincoln back in the win column against Victory Christian.
The Mustangs now hold a 9-1 overall record and will host South Fork 2A Conference rival Lincolnton after the New Year on Wednesday, Jan. 2.
The Lady Mustangs’ struggles continued in the East Lincoln Winter Jam, dropping games against Kings Mountain, Jay M. Robinson and Forestview to fall to 2-8 this season.
Despite the team’s struggles, Brianna Tadlock continued her impressive junior season, scoring at least 20 points in all three games, including a virtuoso performance against Jay M. Robinson in which she almost single-handedly willed her team to victory with 37 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocks. Tadlock is the only East Lincoln player averaging double figures in scoring at 17 points per game this season to go along with 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.
While the Lady Mustangs struggled through a difficult non conference schedule, East Lincoln will host Lincolnton on Wednesday, Jan. 2 with an opportunity to improve to 2-0 in the South Fork 2A conference. That game is scheduled to tip at 6 p.m. with the boys game to follow shortly afterward.