RONDA - The Buckin’ Elks took another step towards adding a Mountain Valley Conference tournament title to their regular-season crown.
Elkin continued its strong run through the league Wednesday night, battling past bitter rival Starmount 56-44 in the tourney semifinals at East Wilkes High School to secure a berth in the title game.
“Good win. We had a big enough lead that we kept it,” Elkin head coach Kenneth Abrams said. “They controlled the tempo and the offensive boards in the third quarter and the next thing you know it’s a four-point ballgame. If we’re not running, we’re struggling. As soon as we started running again, the lead went from four back to 12 again.
“We played with a lot of energy in the first half … but we left it all in the locker room at halftime. You have to bring it back out when you take it in at halftime,” he continued. “We’re happy right now because we’re moving forward. Glad to get out of here with a win.”
The Elks came out on fire in the first quarter, putting Starmount in a big hole early on.
Elkin scored 10 of the first 13 points of the game and led 18-9 after Trey King knocked down a pair of free throws. The Elks pushed their advantage out to 21-12 at the end of one.
Starmount cut the lead down to six early in the second, but King and the Elks closed the half on a 10-2 burst to take a comfortable 33-19 edge into the locker room.
In the third, the Rams battled back, cutting the deficit down to four at 39-35 on a Gunner Cass put-back. Starmount used a 17-8 run in the frame to head to the fourth only down 41-36.
The Elks kept the door open for a Ram comeback with missed free throws in the final period (9-for-20 over the final 3:45). But Starmount was unable to capitalize on the opportunities.
Nathan Williams hit a runner to trim the deficit down to 45-40 midway through the quarter, but that was as close as the Rams would get. Elkin made enough plays down the stretch to grind out the 56-44 victory.
“Elkin played a good game. We had a really good third quarter,” Starmount head coach Rocky Horton explained. “We just dug ourselves in a hole in the first half because we didn’t get back in transition; they beat us down the floor. We jumped on them in the third quarter and got it down to five and had opportunities.
“We had plenty of opportunities, we just couldn’t put the ball in the basket,” he continued. “They were missing free throws down the stretch, so we had our chances, we just have to put the ball in the hole.”
King and Sam Lane powered the Elks with 23 and 18 points, respectively, and nearly out-scored the Rams single-handily (44-41). Chris Hudspeth added nine points, while Frank Miller tacked on four as only five players scored on the night.
Scoring was more balanced for Starmount as nine players filled the shot chart, led by Williams’ 10. Cass added nine points, while Kyler Gregory tacked on five.
Elkin turns its attention to Friday’s championship game where they will await the winner of Thursday’s second semifinal between No. 2 Wilkes Central and third-seeded North Wilkes.
The Elks swept both regular-season meetings with each school, but Abrams said his team has to play better than they did in the semifinals if they want to capture the title.
“It was a good win but we have to play better Friday night. No matter who we play, we cannot play this way,” he explained. “But we’re glad to be where we are.”
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or email@example.com.