Mustangs stun Lincolnton at overtime buzzer

Drew Bean scored a game-high 25 points in East Lincolns win over Lincolnton Wednesday, Jan. 12. /Doug Coats

LINCOLNTON – The East Lincoln Mustangs made the short trek to Lincolnton Wednesday night and returned home with hoops bragging rights over their county rivals.

The nightcap between the boys varsity teams delivered another instant classic in a rivalry that’s produced countless thrilling finishes over the years. This time it was Keandre Walker’s layup at the overtime buzzer that snatched hope from the home faithful and sealed East Lincoln’s 72-70 victory in what is now a non-conference matchup over the Wolves (6-9)

While Walker’s heroics ended the game in overtime, it was the full-court, on-ball defense of Palmer Crichton that sparked a furious Mustangs (13-2) comeback in the final minutes of regulation.

Down eight with less than two minutes on the clock in the fourth quarter, Crichton – playing in his first game since going down with an injury days before Christmas – flipped the momentum in an instant. The junior didn’t put his head down despite being held scoreless for the first 30 minutes of game action, and instead picked the pocket of Wolves’ point guard DJ Danner twice in a matter of seconds, converting both steals into easy buckets to lead East Lincoln’s rally.

Walker and Crichton made key plays on behalf of the junior class, but the usual suspects – seniors Drew Bean and Jeremiah Jones – played a big role in the victory as well.

Jones displayed the poise of a four-year varsity floor general, sinking two free throws in the midst of a raucous gym to send the game to overtime. East Lincoln head coach Jon Hancock gave the ball to Jones on the final possession of the extra period as well and it paid off. The Mustangs’ point guard beat his man off the dribble and then, when the defense collapsed on him in the paint, he dished off to Walker for the game-winning basket.

Bean was fantastic throughout, leading all scorers with 25 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter and overtime. Jones again stuffed the stat sheet, finishing with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists, while Walker added 14 points as well.

Wednesday’s win marks nine consecutive victories for the Mustangs over the Wolves dating back to 2018. East Lincoln improves to 13-2 overall on the season and will return to Western Foothills 3A conference play Friday night in a battle for first place with North Iredell in Denver.

East girls roll

The girls game wasn’t nearly as exciting, with East Lincoln cruising to win No. 12 on the season by a 55-33 margin over the Wolves.

Tied at 6 after the first quarter, the Lady Mustangs (12-2) blitzed Lincolnton in the second quarter, winning the frame 15-3 and taking a commanding lead to the locker room at halftime. The East Lincoln girls never looked back, stretching the lead out to 20 in the third quarter before going to the bench late in the game.

Ginny Overbay led all scorers with 18 points, while also adding 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals. Hailey McFadden notched a double-double, finishing with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

The Lady Mustangs will look to remain undefeated in conference play Friday night against North Iredell.

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