RUTHERFORDTON – If you want to call it an early-season showdown between two undefeated teams, then Tuesday night’s battle from the R-S Central Hilltoppers and McDowell Titans did not disappoint.
However, in a game that featured nine lead changes, it was the Hilltoppers who held on late, giving the Titans their first loss on the season 72-70.
McDowell (2-1) stroked seven 3-pointers in the first half en route to a 40-33 margin at the break.
But in the second half, the pace slowed down and R-S Central (6-0) began to assert itself more by attacking the basket and getting second-chance points, especially down the stretch.
McDowell was ahead 53-52 after three quarters, but the fourth was up for grabs.
Despite an advantage on the offensive boards in the fourth quarter, the Hilltoppers could not put the game away.
McDowell’s Dylan McRary was fouled on a drive down the lane at the 1:50 mark, and he calmly made the free throws, tying it up at 66-66.
McRary then stole a pass and quickly got the ball out to point guard Kevin Silver, who attacked the basket and was fouled with 1:28 left.
Silver (7 rebounds, 4 assists), who finished with 21 points, made both free throws, putting the Titans back in front again 68-66.
It was 68-67 in the final minute, but the Titans committed a costly error. Central changed from man-to-man to a half-court trap defensively, and Silver missed a contested 3-pointer from the left corner.
Zyrion Wikins corralled the rebound and threw a long pass to forward Elijah Carson, who converted a conventional three-point play with 40 seconds left, giving R-S the lead for good at 70-68.
Silver then missed a runner in the lane. Wilkins again grabbed the rebound and found guard Jayden Waddell for a decisive breakaway layup with fewer than 20 seconds left.
Antoine Lindsey added 14 points for McDowell, but just two of them came in the second half. McRary finished with 10 points and two blocks off the bench. Skyler McKinney (8 rebounds, 3 assists) finished with nine points before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Travis Corpening (7 rebounds) had four points. Caden Davis and Adam Randolph tallied three points each. J.C. Olivo had two points and Cole England scored one.
McDowell will return to action tonight (Thursday) at East Burke (4 p.m. jayvee girls).