SHINNSTON -- Dave Gsell hit five pressure-packed free throws in the final :29.5 of play to help Tucker County fend off a furious Lincoln rally and score an exciting, 65-61 victory Friday night at the Lincoln gymnasium.
The youthful Cougars (1-1) found themselves down 56-46 with 5:45 to play after TC's Tony Cook hit one of two free throws.
It was at this point that Cougar coach Rob Hawkins employed a 1-2-1-1 fullcourt zone press that nearly pulled the Mountain Lions apart at the seams.
Forcing four turnovers during the next three-and one-half minutes of play, Lincoln pared the lead to four when David Decker canned two free throws with 2:21 to play. But the Cougars fell victim to their own turnovers, allowing the Mountain Lions to move the lead back to eight when Adam Wilfong and Gsell combined to hit four straight free throws.
Lincoln came right back with pressure again, however, forced two turnovers to cut the lead to 60-56 with :49 remaining on Evan Nuzum's drive to the hoop.
Lincoln then stole the inbounds pass and was fouled. Both free throws were missed, but Lincoln rebounded only to commit another turnover. Gsell then hit the second of a two-shot foul with :29.5 remaining.
Adam Southern countered with a 3-point goal of the right wing to cut it to 61-59 with :21.8 remaining, but Gsell retaliated with two free throws 1.5 seconds later. After another Cougar miscue, Gsell then sealed the verdict with two more free throws with :14.8 left.
Guards Tony Cook and Justin Thompson led the Mountain Lions (2-0) with 17 and 16 points respectively. Gsell chipped in 11, while Wilfong netted 10 points.
Wes Osbourn paced Lincoln with a game-high 21 points. Nuzum, a sophomore guard, added 13, while Southern added 11 points and eight rebounds. Aaron Dragoo chipped in seven points and 11 rebounds.
"We just dug ourselves too big of a hole, but we did have our opportunities," Hawkins said. "We missed some key free throws and we had some turnovers at critical times.
"But the kids didn't quit and almost pulled it out."
Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at email@example.com