Danville coach Craig Pippen was just hoping one of his guards would make an outside shot after the first quarter ended 10-10.
"We needed to make some shots and Eric did," Pippen said. "When one guy hits shots, then it gives everyone confidence and it boosts your defense. Shooting takes care of a lot of things."
Poor shooting hurts Lincoln
Poor shooting can ruin a lot of things, too. Lincoln (6-21) finished the game 18-for-62 from the field and just 4-for-24 from 3-point range. Lincoln also committed 27 fouls and was outrebounded 41-30.
The Patriots got just two points in the second quarter and had one just one field goal in an 11-minute span when the Admirals turned a 10-9 deficit into a 27-12 lead.
"When you are not shooting well, it looks like you are not playing well," Lincoln coach Jeff Jackson said. "We are so young that we are not tough enough mentally to overcome little things. When we didn't shoot well, we let it affect us.
"We knew we had to play a perfect game because Danville is a good team, but we just don't have the experience to play a perfect game."
The Admirals, who were 18-for-44 from the field, won the rebounding battle behind nine rebounds from Darius Baughman. Caldwell also had six rebounds and Gray, who had a game-high 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the field and 7-for-10 at the foul line, pulled off five missed shots.
"Steven can be a warrior on the boards, especially on the offensive end," Pippen said. "He just has a nose for the ball."
Danville misses 21 of 43 free throws
Lincoln made the game respectable the second half thanks to a 17-point third quarter and poor free throw shooting by Danville, which missed 21 of 43 free throws. The Patriots cut the lead to 12 points at 41-29 after three quarters thanks to eight straight points by freshman Noah Keeton, who had a team-high 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting. However, that was as close as the Patriots could get.
The loss ended a disappointing season for Jackson, who played mainly freshmen and sophomores. Lincoln lost its last 11 games.
"I was concerned going into the season that we made sure we kept our heads up when things got tough. Our chemistry got better as the year went on and our kids kept working hard. I still love our future. I'm still counting on these kids," Jackson said.
Pippen has the same feeling about this season. His team will play the winner of tonight's Boyle County-Casey County game in Friday's championship contest. However, Tuesday's win assured the Admirals of a berth in next week's 12th Region Tournament.
"Our strength is getting the ball off the boards and getting into transition offense," Pippen said. "When we play a fast pace and make shots, it works in our favor."
Jackson thinks Danville could be a factor in the region.
"They are athletic enough and rebound well enough," Jackson said. "They are strong. They have good guard play. They can shoot. Gray is tremendous inside. They are a very good team."
However, Danville lost twice to Boyle during the season and if the Rebels beat Casey for a third time tonight, Caldwell knows what it will take for Danville to win the district title.
"We're quicker so we have to get in an up and down game," Caldwell said. "We've got to rebound and in any game, you've got to make shots. It's not that complicated."