BOONVILLE - After a wild Battle of the Bridge Tuesday night, Elkin head coach Kenneth Abrams summed up it perfectly - “It was a shame somebody had to lose this game.”
Behind a playoff-like atmosphere, complete with a pep band and two rowdy student sections, the Buckin’ Elks mounted a furious second-half comeback to battle back in the game. Senior Trey King finished off the rally, and the Rams, with a fade-away three-pointer at the buzzer to give Elkin the thrilling 66-63 victory.
“To sum it up, we started the game slow and didn’t play any defense in the first half. The first half was terrible. We were lucky to only be down by nine,” Abrams explained. “At halftime, I didn’t go in there and yell and scream. Our speech was ‘believe in what we do, and you’ll win the ballgame.’ We didn’t change anything. I said it very calmly. You can’t get it all back in one possession, so we kept pecking away and pecking away.
“That last-second shot was how we drew it up. And it worked,” he continued. “The worst thing that could have happened was that we went to overtime. I’m proud of these guys, they’ve really grown up.”
Starmount, fresh off its comeback win over Ashe County the night before, continued its hot play and jumped all over conference front-runner Elkin early on. The Rams grabbed a 4-2 lead on a Kyler Gregory layup and never looked back, taking a 12-10 edge into the second.
After King tied the game at 18-18 early in the second, Starmount went on a 13-5 burst to close out the half, heading to the locker room with a nine-point advantage.
In the third, Elkin began “pecking away” at the deficit, cutting the lead down to four at 47-43 on five-straight points by King. But the Rams answered on two-straight hoops by Ben Combs to push their advantage back to 52-43 at the end of three.
The Elks flexed their muscles in the fourth and showed why they are 11-0 in league play. Elkin opened the final period on a 12-2 charge to cut the lead down to three at 56-53.
After another 6-2 run late in the fourth, the Elks finally drew even on two King free throws, knotting the game at 62-all. James Ashley and Sam Lane each hit a free throw down the stretch, setting up King’s heroics.
With 3.8 seconds left, King took the inbounds pass in front of Starmount’s bench and dribbled up court. After crossing half-court, the senior drained a fade-away three over the out-stretched hand of a defender to give the Elks the thrilling Battle of the Bridge victory 66-63 as the Elkin student section rushed the floor in celebration.
“Trey is a streaky shooter sometimes. But when he got to his spot I told him to take the shot. It was how we drew it up,” Abrams explained. “The defense was looking for Sam and that’s why we used him as a decoy. When he drifted to the middle, the defense drifted to the middle. Trey hit and it was lucky, but that’s how we drew it up. It was a great shot.”
Despite the loss, Starmount head coach Rocky Horton said it was “by far our best game of the season.”
“We played our hearts out. We played 32 minutes of great basketball,” he said. “Give credit to Elkin, they hit shots at the end. Trey hit a shot at the end over a extended hand. But that’s where we need to be. We played 32 minutes of hard basketball with 11 guys giving maximum effort. I’m proud of them.
“It was by far our best game of the season. Tonight, our guys showed up to play. We picked up where we left off against Ashe County. And that’s a great step for us,” Horton continued. “It is a loss, but I love these guys to death and I couldn’t ask for anything more. This is what we’ve been talking about lately - attitude and energy. Those small things win big basketball games.”
King powered Elkin with a team-high 20 points, including the game-winner, while Lane added 15. Chris Hudspeth finished with 14 points on the night with Frank Miller tacking on 11.
In a balanced scoring night for the Rams, four players scored at least eight points, led by Ashley with 13. Combs added 11 points in the game, while Gunner Cass and Luke Shore each tacked on eight.
Horton echoed Abrams’ thoughts, saying it was “unfortunate there had to be a winner and a loser tonight.”
“Both teams played the best they could and unfortunately there has to be a winner and a loser, and we came up short tonight. I hope now our guys see how much we have improved and I hope we can carry this for the rest of the season,” he said.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or email@example.com.