Lincoln was right there for most of a game in which the lead changed hands 10 times. The Patriots built a five-point lead midway through the third quarter, and they did it with True on the bench.
It was a much closer game than the first two meetings between these teams, which South Laurel won by 11 and 16 points, respectively. But that came as no surprise to the Patriots.
"We knew we could play with them," True said.
South Laurel coach Steve Wright said he knew it, too.
"This game was pretty much what I thought it was going to be," Wright said. "I watched them play late in the season, and I saw a much-improved team, and I looked back at our games with them, and they were close until the fourth quarter."
This game was tied when the fourth quarter began, which is when True returned after sitting out the last 5:03 of the third period following his third foul.
True scored 10 of his game-high 18 points in the fourth quarter, and his layup with 4:32 left gave Lincoln its last lead at 48-46.
Cardinals take lead for good with 1:54 to play
South Laurel tied the game half a minute later, and there was one more tie before the Cardinals took the lead for good at 52-50 when center Eric Fields scored over True with 1:54 to play.
Fields blocked a shot by True on each of the Patriots' next two possessions, although True rebounded the second block and scored on a putback to pull Lincoln within 54-52 with 22 seconds left.
"He caused us some problems with his size," Jackson said of Fields, who had 14 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots, including three in the fourth quarter.
"In the second half, his defense was the best post defense we played the whole game," Wright said. "He altered a lot of shots, and he blocked some shots on True and some of their other kids."
The Patriots got one more chance to tie the game after Fields hit only one of two free throws at :20, but a charging foul on True with 10 seconds left sealed their fate.
Lincoln led 32-29 early in the second half when True drew his third foul, but the Patriots pushed their way to their largest lead at 39-34 less than two minutes after he left the floor.
"Justin (Kolasa) came in (for True) and did a real good job for us, and we moved the ball and hit some shots," Jackson said.
But South Laurel hit its share of shots, too. The Cardinals shot 49 percent (22-for-45) from the field and went 5-for-7 in the fourth quarter.
"We had matchup problems, and we couldn't hardly play them in a zone because they shoot so well," Jackson said.
Lincoln shot 45 percent (18-for-40) but had six more turnovers and was outrebounded 26-22.
Jordan Hammonds led South Laurel with 16 points.
Lincoln's Chris Hart went 4-for-9 from 3-point range and had 14 points, while Nathan Norman added 12 points and Matt Reynolds had a team-high eight rebounds for the Patriots, whose best season in 10 years came to an end.
"I feel so bad for my kids," Jackson said. "I'm proud of our kids. This is just a tough loss."
LINCOLN (18-12) - Matt Reynolds 2, Nathan Norman 12, Jonathan True 18, Kelly Reed 3, Chris Hart 14, Justin Kolasa 3.
SOUTH LAUREL (22-9) - Cam Smith 11, Walt Allen 4, Eric Fields 14, Ty Proffitt 7, Jordan Hammonds 16, D.J. Perkins 2, Trey Smith 2.