East Wilkes edges Starmount in thriller
by Matthew Gorry
BOONVILLE - Starmount’s fourth-quarter comeback fell short Tuesday night at home against a solid East Wilkes squad.
Playing in their first home game since early December, the Lady Rams fell behind by eight points early in the fourth quarter. A late surge came up short as the Cardinals escaped with a hard-fought 51-49 victory.
“East was changing up their pressure and their traps. Every time Heaven touched the ball, they were double-teaming her. It took us a little while to understand how to attack that and how to get open shots,” head coach Doug Chilton explained. “I thought we did a much better job on the boards in the second half.
“We didn’t give up,” he continued. “We called a couple timeouts to get them to understand how to attack the zone defense. We made a couple shots and got the ball in the lane a couple times. They started holding the ball to run some clock and that helped us catch our breath.”
East Wilkes came out on fire, jumping out to an 18-10 lead in the first quarter.
Starmount responded in the second and tied the game at 22-all on a Bralyn Hampton put-back. After five-straight points by Heaven Watlers, Erin Royal converted an ‘and-1’ to bring the Cardinals within one at 26-25 at the break.
After trading buckets in the third, East grabbed a late lead and headed to the final quarter up 38-34.
The Rams kept the game close down the stretch and trimmed the lead down to 51-49 on a Miracle Walters floater with 17 seconds left. After Royal missed the front-end of a 1-and-1, Starmount dribbled down the court with a chance at a game-tying bucket.
But a last-second shot hit iron as East escaped with the tough two-point win, 51-49.
“When we had the ball late, the inexperience right now is not understanding how much we need to rush and how we can set up plays,” Chilton said. “I told them that if we took the ball one way and reversed it back, we would get a wide open shot. We missed a layup at the end; we missed a lot of layups in the game and that’s inexperience under pressure.
“I’m very pleased with the effort. We played very hard against some seniors and some juniors. We’re growing. It’s coming,” he added.
Heaven Walters powered Starmount’s comeback with a game-high 18 points, while Hampton tacked on 11. Darion Dobson and Miracle Walters finished with six points apiece.
ShaNisha White lead East Wilkes with a team-high 16 points, while Royal added 13. Adrian Pardue tacked on six points, while McKenzie Stokes added five.
The Cards evened their conference mark at 4-4 with the win, while Starmount dropped to 2-6 at the halfway point.
With eight games remaining on their slate, Chilton said he setting his sights on splitting the final contests.
“I told them at practice to stop thinking about winning. I told them they had to think about each possession on offense and each possession on defense and playing it as hard as you can then the winning would take care of itself down the road,” he said.”What we’d like out of the next eight games is to get three or four more wins. If we can play the eight conference games and win half of them, we’d be thrilled. I think that would be a great finish to our regular season. It would icing on the cake.
“It’s hard on Heaven to have to play her last year with that kind of philosophy, but she’s our leader and she’s going to have to set the example of keeping the focus and keeping her head up and playing every game to the best of her ability, and I think she did that tonight,” Chilton added.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or email@example.com.
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