What did the Western Wayne County and Tri-Eastern Conference rivals do for an encore?
Close, but not quite.
Two weeks after Hagerstown held off a Lincoln rally in the Wayne County boys basketball tournament, the two teams met again Wednesday night.
Free throws sealed the victory again.
Early shootout again.
Hagerstown won again.
And though the final margin was a little higher in the Tigers’ 65-59 victory over the Golden Eagles, it was a much closer battle than that would indicate.
This time, the early lead went to Lincoln — a whopping seven-point advantage, 13-6, in the first quarter.
Eight ties and 17 lead changes later, Hagerstown went 8-for-8 in fourth-quarter free throws to put the game away. They were 12-for-13 in the game.
“For us to shoot as poorly as we did at Winchester from the free-throw line and come out tonight, 12-of-13 from the free-throw line, I think that’s a sign of a team that’s starting to get it,” Hagerstown coach Bobby Jones said.
Lincoln hit four first-quarter 3-pointers to Hagerstown’s three, but Zach Davis hit one late to give the Tigers a 19-18 advantage after one quarter.
The Tigers got their biggest lead of the half with a lay-up by Davis making it 21-18 early in the second. However the Golden Eagles took a 25-21 lead when Ben Singer drilled a 3, then hit a pair of free throws.
The teams battled from there on out, with a three-point play by Evan Underwood giving Lincoln a 31-27 lead late in the second quarter before an impressive tip-in by Thorin Stage at the buzzer.
Hagerstown regained a lead, 32-31 about 10 seconds after halftime when Matthias Ritter nailed a 3-pointer. Nine of the lead changes happened that quarter with Lincoln taking the lead, 44-42 with six seconds left, on Underwood’s floater.
Four more lead changes happened in the final frame with Stage nailing a 3 to make it 45-44, Singer responding for Lincoln’s 46-45 lead, Jared Andis nailing a 3 to make it 48-46 Hagerstown, and a layup by Bryan Mathews making it 50-48 Hagerstown with 4:17 to play.
Ian Bloom hit a 3-pointer to get Lincoln within 52-51, and the Golden Eagles got within 2 three more times, before Hagerstown’s impressive free-throw finish.
Bloom hit a layup at the buzzer, but it was too late.
“I told our kids when the game was over tonight, I’d be able to sleep tonight if I could look them in the eye and say, ‘We did everything we could do if we could put ourselves in position to win,’ and I thought we did that,” Lincoln coach Rodney Klein said. “I was pleased with our effort, I was pleased with our enthusiasm, I was pleased with our execution.
“This game came down to making some plays and they made some plays, not that we didn’t make plays, because we made a lot of big plays, they just made a couple more than we did and we ended up losing.”
Davis had a career-high 18 points, including four 3-pointers, to lead Hagerstown, while Stage finished with 17.
“I think we all were surprised that they were giving us the outside shot,” Davis said. “They were playing across the free-throw line extended and they were letting us shoot 3s.”
Three finished in double figures for the Golden Eagles: Evan Underwood with 15, Singer with 14 and Bloom with 13.