East Lincoln senior forward Justin Kuthan made a Player-of-the-Year type play in the final seconds of overtime Friday night at the Tarleton Complex at CVCC in Hickory.
Kuthan grabbed Matthew McCowan’s missed shot off the rim with about a second to play and instantly put the ball back up, off the glass and through the net to give the Mustangs a thrilling 51-49 overtime victory in the championship game of the South Fork 2A Conference Tournament.
East Lincoln had called timeout to set up a play with 9.7 seconds remaining after gaining possession in a scramble for a loose ball.
Although the game may not have been very pretty at times, the contest was very competitive throughout with both teams playing extremely hard, and the lead changed hands more than a dozen times.
After the Mustangs had held Lake Norman Charter’s Donovan Atwell scoreless in the opening quarter and built a 15-9 lead, the sophomore guard scored 11 straight points in the second period for the Knights, getting his team back in the game. Atwell scored 13 of his team’s 15 points in the quarter, and Lake Norman Charter trailed by just one point at the break.
But the East Lincoln defense did a much better job down the stretch, holding Atwell to just seven more points over the final two quarters and the overtime period.
Senior Myles Adams helped extend the game into the extra period by knocking down two of three free-throw attempts to tie the game at 45 with just 9.7 seconds to play, and Jeremiah Jones delivered a key block of Cal Reed’s short jumper as time expired in regulation.
Kuthan, who was named the South Fork 2A Conference men’s Player of the Year following the game, led the Mustangs with an 18-point, 17 rebound performance. Evan Montanari, a sophomore, added 10 points for East Lincoln, who improved to 23-4 after defeating the Knights for the second time in three meetings this season.
Atwell led Lake Norman Charter with 20 points, followed by Reed with 12. The Knights fell to 20-6.
East Lincoln will enter this week’s 2A state playoffs as the 10th seed in the West Region. The Mustangs will host (23)East Burke on Tuesday at a time to be determined.
East Lincoln is riding a 10-game win streak, and has won 17 of their last 18 contests heading into the 2A state playoffs.
East Lincoln 15 10 10 10 6 – 51
L.N. Charter 9 15 8 13 4 – 49
East Lincoln: Justin Kuthan 18, Evan Montanari 10, Adams 8, McCowan 6, Bean 5, Jones 4, Staples, Craig, Nichols, Clarke.
Lake Norman Charter: Donovan Atwell 20, Cal Reed 12, O’Brien 6, Edens 6, Porter 5, Scott,