Back in the '90s, when West Charlotte High's basketball team won three N.C. 4A championships, including two back to back, the Lions were the state's top team, and they had a habit of coming from behind to win tough games and breaking their opponents' collective heart.
In that way, these current Lions look a lot like their predecessors.
In a year full of rallies, West Charlotte added another to the scrapbook Friday, clawing back for a 59-55 overtime win at South Mecklenburg that sent the Lions back to the N.C. 4A regionals with a 15-game win streak.
It's the Lions' third straight regional trip and 15th overall. West Charlotte lost in the regional final in 2010 and won in 2011. And getting back wasn't easy.
"We play a tough schedule," Lions coach Baronton Terry said. "It helps you in games like this. We got down in the championship game of the Chick-Fil-A (Christmas tournament) and we had to fight through it. We played Vance three times, North Meck three times, Mooresville. It's hard."
West Charlotte (25-5), No. 2 in the Sweet 16, constantly trailed No. 4 South Mecklenburg (23-6), which was hunting its first regional berth since 1999. The Lions were down 51-48 before Trey Foster's fadeway 3-point shot with 46.8 seconds left tied the game and sent it to overtime.
In the extra period, the Lions got down 53-51 on two free throws from South Meck's David Moore, but the Sabres didn't score another point until Kenton Straite's layup at the buzzer that the Lions allowed him to get. So the Sabres went 3 minutes, 57 seconds without scoring in overtime, going 0 for 8 from the field.
That defense helped push West Charlotte through on a night when junior center Kennedy Meeks (13 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks) and senior guards Mark Blackmon (16 points) and Mike Brown (10 points, four assists, four steals) had good games, but the Lions otherwise struggled.
West Charlotte shot 35 percent from the field. The Lions had trouble all game with South Meck's front line of the 6-5 Moore (10 points), 6-9 Philip Reed (4 points) and 6-9 Malcom Mathews (14 points, six rebounds, six blocks).
"They played hard," West Charlotte's Brown said. "But we had to stay focused on defense."