LENOIR – Travis Corpening and Skyler McKinney have been playing as well as anybody on the McDowell Titans’ roster over the past month.
The senior duo may have reserved its best work for the final seconds Tuesday night, capping off a fourth-quarter comeback with a clutch play at the buzzer in a 69-67 win at West Caldwell High School.
Corpening’s left-handed layup off a heady McKinney assist did the trick.
The road win keeps McDowell (19-4 overall, 11-2 Northwestern 3A/4A) in a second-place tie with Freedom going into Friday night’s regular season finale in Morganton.
Getting to that point wasn’t easy for the Titans, as they squandered a 40-28 half time advantage.
McDowell stumbled out of the break and gave West Caldwell (9-14, 4-9) new life in the second half. The Warriors quickly changed the tone of the game, draining four 3-pointers in the period, which catapulted into a 19-1 run that turned into a 52-45 advantage going into the final stanza.
But McDowell didn’t quit, and Antoine Lindsey’s three-ball off a Kevin Silver assist with 4:34 left regained the lead for the Titans at 57-56.
From that point it was essentially a back-and-forth trade-off of scores.
The game was tied 67-67 when the Titans got a defensive stop with less than 20 seconds to play. Javon Elleby’s driving attempt bounced off the rim, the Titans advanced up the court and had the ball deflected out of bounds with 4.3 seconds left.
McDowell called timeout, and coach Brian Franklin composed a side inbounds play that turned out to be the game-winner.
McKinney, running off a Corpening screen near the left post, took the inbounds at the wing. Three West Caldwell defenders, including the original screened defender, all tried to trap McKinney once he took possession.
That left Corpening alone on the block, where McKinney connected with him on a pass and Corpening banked home the game-winning layup just prior to the final horn, sending the McDowell players and spectators into celebration.
“We did some really good things in the first half,” said Franklin. “West Caldwell has been playing some good basketball lately. I thought we played well and matched their intensity but in the third quarter I don’t think we did anything well.
“They beat us in every phase of the game in that quarter. We didn’t rebound, didn’t block out or anything. That’s the bad news from this standpoint, but going into the fourth quarter down seven our kids never quit. Both teams made some huge shots in the fourth quarter. I thought up six with about two minutes left we had it in control but they answered with a couple huge shots; credit to them for doing that.
“In the end, you have to credit our kids for executing what we talked about in the huddle. Skyler came off the screen and he knew what options were going to be there. He found Travis open, who then made the big play at the end.”
Lindsey (3 rebounds, 1 steal) finished with 21 points, 11 of those coming in the fourth quarter on some huge 3-pointers that sparked the rally. Corpening had 16 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots.
Silver (4 rebounds, 3 assists) finished with 12 points and McKinney (11 points, 14 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 blocks) continued to post impressive all-around stats, just missing out on another triple-double.
Caden Davis rounded out the McDowell offensive production with nine points, six rebounds, and two assists.
West Caldwell, who made eight 3-pointers, was led by Trevon Hall with 29 points. Kam Carver added 13 points.
McDowell and Freedom will square off Friday night in Morganton in the regular-season finale (4 p.m. jayvee girls).