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Nitro-LC photo

Nitro’s Kolton Painter puts up a 3-point shot at Lincoln County Saturday night. Painter led the Wildcats with 16 points.

HAMLIN — Nitro couldn’t miss in the opening frame and Lincoln County couldn’t find the twine.

The Class AAA No. 3 Wildcats rode the wave to a 28-0 lead to open the game in what was set to be a battle of state-ranked teams Saturday night. Nitro settled for a 74-35 victory.

“We really needed this tonight,” said Wildcats coach Austin Lowe. “I hate it for Lincoln County. I hate for anyone to have to experience that, but we needed it.”

Nitro (7-2) was coming off a 51-42 loss to Logan.

“It was good team basketball and everyone got a piece of the pie and we’ve been going through some internal stuff and I challenged our guys and they responded tonight,” Lowe added. “We wanted to push the ball early and we were uncharacteristic the last couple of games and we sat down and talked about it and we had to get back to how we played earlier in the year and tonight we did that.”

Nitro came out firing while capitalizing on Panther turnovers as six players scored in the first period — led by seven points from Trevor Lowe, including a 3-point bucket. Bryce Myers added a pair of treys for Nitro in that decisive period that Lincoln County could not recover from, down 41-11 at intermission.

Lincoln County (6-3) showed signs of life in the third when it outscored Nitro 15-10 thanks in part to five points from Will Carpenter. The Wildcats, however, flexed again in the fourth — going on a 23-9 run on the sharpshooting of Kolton Painter, who carried the hot hand with seven in that frame and led the Wildcats in scoring with 16 points and added eight rebounds.

Joseph Udoh cleared the lane and found teammates with a pair of no-look passes good for buckets down the stretch. Udoh posted a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds. Trevor Lowe, son of the coach, added 14 points and nine rebounds and Myers handed out six assists.

Lincoln County’s standout guard Jayse Tully was playing with a broken nose and brace on his face after a basketball-related fall earlier this week.

Austin Lowe said that he looked at the matchup as a regional seeding game and one his squad needed to win.

“I couldn’t be more proud of my guys for facing down adversity,” he said.

Carpenter paced the Panthers with 10 points. Lincoln County, which came into the game ranked No. 7 in AAA, lost its third straight.