MORAVIAN FALLS - With the Mountain Valley Conference season hitting the home stretch, the Buckin’ Elks all but sealed a conference title Thursday night.
Elkin held on for a wild 64-57 victory over second place Wilkes Central to stay perfect in league play, while putting a stranglehold on the conference crown.
“I’m proud of my kids. I’m a little bit emotional because those kids have a lot to put up with me. But that’s what hard practices do,” head coach Kenneth Abrams said. “We aren’t perfect, but we work hard and we deserve to be where we are right now today. That’s a great team effort. I’m the nervous one, because they are well-coached and they can play basketball. We worked all year to get where we are.
“I’m just thankful that I have a group of kids that play team basketball,” he continued. “I don’t have one superstar - I have 11 basketball players. They have accepted their roles. They have accepted that when they don’t score, it doesn’t matter, as long as at the end of the night, we’ve got the ‘W.’ That’s something to be proud of. No one person stood out tonight because it was a team effort.”
Elkin came out firing on all cylinders, quickly quieting a rowdy Central student section. After the Eagles took a 3-2 lead early, the Elks caught fire, scoring 15 of the next 17 points to grab a 17-5 edge at the end of one.
“The big lead gave us confidence early,” Abrams said. “When you have a big lead, you can afford a few turnovers. You don’t have to be too careful. The big lead gave us an adrenaline rush.”
After Elkin pushed its lead out to 23-9 midway through the second, the Eagles responded with a 10-2 charge to cut the deficit to 25-19. The Elks took a 29-24 advantage into the locker room.
Central continued its run to open the third, trimming the lead down to two at 30-28 early in the frame before the Elks answered. Three quick buckets pushed the cushion back out 36-28 with 3:30 left.
“Whenever you have a big lead, the hardest part about it is trying to keep it. They went on a run and cut it down to two points. The thing about making a run is how we handle it, and we handled it party darn good,” Abrams said.
Elkin took a 42-37 lead into the fourth and decisive quarter looking to put the game away. After two baskets by Sam Lane, Trey King converted an ‘and 1’ to extend the advantage out to 49-42.
But Central hung around, cutting the deficit down to four at 53-49 with 1:20 left. Lane responded with a contested drive to the hoop. Following the play, the Eagles were hit with a technical foul, sending Lane to the line for three free throws.
The senior hit 1-of-3 as the Elks converted 7-of-11 over the final 1:02 to preserve the 64-57 statement win.
“Down the stretch, I was saying ‘we have a five-point lead, take easy shots.’ I don’t think we took any threes in the fourth quarter,” Abrams said. “I always stress, look at the scoreboard, and if you’re winning, you don’t need to force anything. And that helped us. We concentrated on being patient. Free throws weren’t great, but good enough to pull it out.
“The boys wanted this one bad, especially my seniors. I have guys that have been on the varsity team for four years and have never been in this position. They told me before the game ‘Coach, we’re going to get this one.’ And I’m glad they got it. I’m happy for them,” he added.
In a balanced scoring performance, three Elks reach double-figures, led by Lane’s game-high 19. King added 16 points, while Jamiles Hayes finished with 10. Chris Hudspeth and Frank Miller tacked on eight points apiece.
“Our bench played great tonight,” Abrams said. “Jamiles Hayes and Kody King played terrific tonight, defensive wise and on the boards.”
Elkin followed up the big win in Moravian Falls with a 55-53 overtime victory over rival East Wilkes Friday night.
Frank Miller hit the game-winner with one second remaining in the extra session for the win, completing the season sweep over the Cardinals.
Elkin, which improved to 16-5 on the year and 13-0 in the MVAC with the wins, return to action Tuesday against Ashe County with three games remaining in the regular season.
Sitting perfect in league play heading into the home stretch of the season, Abrams said there is more pressure on the Elks now.
“Right now, there is more pressure on us than there was coming into [Wilkes Central] because we won. Now we have Ashe County, West Wilkes and Forbush left. And those guys are coming after us,” he said.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.