Before Lincoln (19-12)¿could advance to the title game against Boyle County, Ford, who had a game-high 20 points for Danville, attempted to answer Hill’s final bucket and force the sixth tie of the game but missed. Rob Caudill got the grab off the miss, then Christian Gateskill-Fuqua tried to give the Admirals their first lead of the game with a 3-point shot from the wing. But the trey bounced off the glass and Hill grabbed the rebound for Lincoln.
Danville (13-15) got another shot at a tie after a Devonta Alcorn defensive grab, but again the Admirals would miss their target, with a Damir Karapandzic miss pulled down by Jacob Conway.
After a couple fouls by Danville, Edgington calmly knocked down two free throws off a Ford foul to give the Patriots a 44-40 advantage with 22.7 seconds left. Gateskill-Fuqua picked up two free throws off a Hill foul at the 14.8-second mark, then it was Hill stepping up to finish, sinking four straight free throws to set the final score.
“We played six kids tonight and they all really played hard, and Trenton and Luke finished out the great effort by stepping up and making those big, big free throws,” Jackson said.
Lincoln was 8 for 8 from the foul line in the fourth quarter and 9 for 10 overall.
“At the end of the game, we had to put them on the free-throw line,” Danville coach Andrew Zaheri said. “And if you have to put Lincoln County on the free-throw line you’re just about done in. Coach Jackson does such a good job that, if it’s a two-point or three-point ballgame, you’re going to really have to make some plays. Credit to them. They’re always just calm. It’s really hard to unnerve them, and in the end they always knock down their free throws.”
“This really was anybody’s game. This was definitely one of those games where you wish you had a few points cushion.”
The closeness of the game was reflected by a margin of one to three points for most of the night and a lead of no more than four points until Hill’s final two foul shots. But it was also reflected in several of the game statistics.
Lincoln and Danville were even on the boards with 28 apiece, with Hill and Ford each getting nine rebounds. Danville had six turnovers and Lincoln had nine, and the Patriots had four steals to the Admirals’ three. The two teams also shot well at the foul line, with Lincoln at 90 percent and Danville at 87 percent (13 for 15).
“We do kind of mirror each other,” Zaheri said. “We both have a good post player and we both have some perimeters that can knock shots down. It was just one of those things tonight where they hit more shots.”
That would be the biggest difference for the two teams. Lincoln was at 50 percent from the field, making good on 19 of 38 attempts, while Danville was held to just 29.5 percent, going 13 for 44.
“They shot 29 percent from the floor, and that’s pretty good defense,” Jackson said. “I wasn’t overall really, really pleased with our defensive effort because I thought we let them get in the lane, but I thought the last 4 minutes of the game we defended pretty daggone good.”
Both teams shot well in the first quarter. Lincoln, which got off to a 6-2 start, connected on nine of 13 shot attempts in the first while Danville made six of eight. Ford and Caudill both hit 3-pointers in the first to keep the Admirals within 19-16.
Scoring dropped off over the second and third quarters with seven points the most tallied by either team. Lincoln led 26-23 at the half after a 7-7 second quarter, and Danville edged the Patriots 7-6 in the third to make it 32-30 heading into the final frame.
Ford kept the Danville offense firing in the fourth, scoring 10 of the Admirals’ 12 points. The score was tied four times in the fourth — at 32, 34, 36 and 40 — before Hill hit to put Lincoln on top for good and set up a Lincoln-Boyle final.
“Coming over here we really liked our chances to win tonight,” Zaheri said. “But that being said, we knew it was going to be a nail-biter. We felt like it was going to come down to the end of the game and that’s exactly what happened.”
“Obviously we’re disappointed, but I’m so proud for how hard they fought. We gave ourselves a shot to win. and thats all you can hope for. Tonight I think they gave me everything that was in their tank. They did a few things that, as a coaching staff, we’ve asked them to do as far as diving for loose balls and putting bodies on bodies. We played physical. That being said, we didn’t lose our composure either.”
As the Admirals boarded the bus and headed home and workers began cleaning a near-empty gymnasium, Jackson kicked back in the Lincoln locker room and
breathed a sigh of relief knowing that his Patriots had accomplished a goal set before the season started.
“It was a good win for our kids, a great win for our kids, because it means we’re playing next week,” Jackson said. “At the start of the season, we set a goal of advancing in district and getting a chance to play in the region. We beat a good basketball team tonight in Danville, and we get to keep playing.”
45th District Tournament
At Lincoln County
Danville 16 23 30 42
Lincoln County 19 26 32 48
DANVILLE (13-15) — Tryston Ford 20, Christian Gateskill-Fuqua 8, Rob Caudill 4, Devonta Alcorn 6, Alex Burnside 2, Damir Karapandzic 2.
LINCOLN (19-12) — Trevor Edgington 15, Timmy Taylor 8, Jacob Conway 2, Micah Ward 4, Luke Hill 19.