ELKIN - With the postseason right around the corner, the Buckin’ Elks were “refocused” Friday night by an unlikely opponent.
The recently crowned Mountain Valley Conference champions were upset by last place Forbush 52-51 after two attempts at the buzzer hit iron and rolled out.
“Am I surprised? No. We got out-hustled,” head coach Kenneth Abrams explained. “We just couldn’t finish. We weren’t tired, they just shot the ball well. We picked up the intensity in the second half, but it all boiled down to not finishing. And we didn’t finish tonight.
“One of the kids in the locker room said that we needed [this loss]. There is a positive sign. We know what we have to do - it boils down to finishing. We had several opportunities to take the lead, but we just didn’t finish,” he added.
Forbush soared out of the gate, quieting the loud crowd in N.H. Carpenter Gymnasium. The Falcons jumped out to a quick 8-2 advantage and led 20-12 at the end of one.
In the second, Elkin cut the lead down to four at 22-18 midway through the period, but Forbush took a surprising 34-25 lead into the break.
The Elks turned up the intensity in the second half and began chipping away at the deficit. Late in the frame, Forbush pushed their lead out to 46-34 on two free throws. But Tyrek Hayes drilled a three as Elkin scored the final seven points to head to the fourth only down five at 46-41.
Elkin stayed within striking distance in the final period. After Hunter Gooden knocked down a pair of free throws that pushed the lead back out to 50-43, Chris Hudpseth hit 4-of-4 shots from the charity stripe to jump-start a game-tying charge.
Sam Lane followed with a long jumper from the top of the key before hitting his patented turnaround jumper to give the Elks their first lead at 51-50 with 1:10 left.
Barrett Hennings responded with a hard baseline drive to put the Falcons back on top with 54.8 left. Forbush then missed a pair of free throws that would have sealed the win, setting up Elkin for a potential game-winning shot.
With 8.9 ticks left, Trey King beat his man off the dribble but his layup went long. Jamiles Hayes’ tip back hit iron as the Falcons celebrated the thrilling 52-51 upset win.
“We got every look we wanted at the end of the game,” Abrams said. “That’s what we drew up. That last shot is exactly what we wanted. We got the put-back.
“I’m happy with the way we played in some aspects. Defense wise, we just have to get better if we plan on making a tournament run. We got some good plays, they just got a few more than we did,” he added.
Hudspeth powered the Elks with a team-high 14 points on the night, while Lane added a dozen. Josh Strickland added six with Tyrek Hayes tacking on five. Frank Miller, Jamiles Hayes and Calvin Yarboro added four each in a balanced scoring out-put.
After three nail-biting victories in the past four games (Starmount, East Wilkes and Ashe County), Abrams said the Elks were going to get “bit sooner or later.”
“We escaped three games like that, and sooner or later you get bit. We got bit tonight,” he said. “We’ll just have to bounce back on Tuesday. They’re upset in the locker room, and that’s a good sign. They wanted to win it.
The loss halted Elkin’s 14-game conference win streak and ended chances of a perfect run through the conference.
Elkin (14-1) returns to the court Tuesday in its season finale against West Wilkes on Senior Night. Abrams said the team will be “more focused” after the Forbush loss.
“It’s going to help us focus better and concentrate more. There are some positives from this loss,” he said.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or email@example.com.