It’s been a long time coming for the East Wilkes Cardinals, as they have finally won their first game of the season. The Cardinals travelled to Elkin to take on the Elkin Buckin’ Elks in the final game of the regular season.
It was a heart-pounding win as it came down to the final seconds of the game. In dramatic fashion, the Cardinals earned 47-45 Mountain Valley Athletic Conference win over Elkin.
“I thought we played hard, and we played really good on the defensive end,” said East Wilkes head coach J.K. Adkins. “The first time we played these guys I think we gave up 73 points, so we knew we had to keep the score down into the 40s and 50s to have a chance. Our guys did a good job. I wish we would have rebounded a little better because I thought a lot of their points did come off of second-chance shots.”
In the first quarter, Elkin came out on fire and held the momentum firmly in their hands. Austin Longworth and Tevin Harris put up several shots to give the Buckin’ Elks a 16-5 lead at the end of the first. The second quarter saw East Wilkes start to make its comeback as the Cardinals put up 15 points and held Elkin to just six. At halftime, Elkin had a 22-20 lead over East Wilkes.
“We got in a hole there in the first quarter and the second quarter we played a little better,” said Adkins. “I just told our guys if we were going to win the game we had to do a better job on the boards, and we had to keep Longworth off the board. We had to patient on offense, and the biggest thing that we stressed at halftime was that they had a few players in foul trouble and we wanted to try and take it to those guys and force them to play defense. We really needed to sit down and get some good stops on defense, those were the points of emphasis. The guys did a good job with that.”
The Cardinals took Adkins’ words to heart, as they played a completely different third quarter. East Wilkes came out of the locker room and put up 21 points which doubled its lead. While the Cardinals were hitting shots on offense, they also put up a defense that the Buckin Elks couldn’t get past as Elkin scored just seven points.
East Wilkes took its first lead of the game with 4:55 left in the third quarter. Ben Longbottom drove to the basket and faded outside the lane for a two-point shot that put the Cardinals up 26-24. The shot opened up the floodgates for East Wilkes, as the Cardinals went on a scoring run. East Wilkes put up shot after shot to take a 41-29 lead at the end of the third quarter.
The final quarter saw the action heat up, as the script was flipped and Elkin started to make its comeback. The Buckin’ Elks put up 16 points and held East Wilkes to just six points. For the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, Elkin had the upper hand and were able to pull within six points of the Cardinals. Elkin kept pushing on offense until it was able to pull within three points. Jaylen Mayes put up a two-point shot from the key for a 45-42 game.
Fans on both sides of the gym started to rise to their feet as the game became more intense. With 56.1 seconds left, Longworth was fouled and drained one of his free throws for a 45-43 score. Longworth missed his second shot and the Cardinals rebounded the ball, but they didn’t get very far down the court. Mayes was able to steal the ball and pass it to Harris who went up for a shot and was fouled. With 20.2 seconds remaining in the game, Harris made one shot and missed the second to pull Elkin within one point. Although Harris missed the second shot, Elkin was able to rebound the ball as Longworth came up with it and was once again fouled. With 7.1 left in the fourth quarter, Longworth tied the game 45-45.
Tension started rising as East Wilkes had the ball and time was winding down. As East Wilkes was going down the court, Elkin trapped B.C. Speaks near half-court and Adkins called a timeout. With the timeout, East Wilkes was able to take the ball out of bounds in front of the half-court line.
With only 3.2 seconds left, the Cardinals in-bounded the ball to Vestal who found the hands of Sidden. Sidden went up for the shot and it bounced off the backboard into the hands of Vestal. Just as the buzzer reached 0.2 seconds, Vestal sent his shot up and it went through the hoop at the sound of the buzzer. The Cardinals had successfully put up a 47-45 win to earn their first conference win of the season.
“I’m just happy for our guys,” said Adkins. “It’s been a long time coming, and they’ve been working hard enough, and we’ve played well enough for four or five games to win a game, but it just hasn’t happened. I’m glad it finally happened tonight.”
Elkin ends the regular season with an overall record of 4-19, and an MVAC record of 3-11. The Cardinals end their regular season with an overall record of 1-22, and an MVAC record of 1-13.
East Wilkes stats:
B. Vestal – 16 points and 8 rebounds
T. Lambert – 14 points and 8 rebounds
J. Salters – 5 points and 6 rebounds
A. Chatham – 4 points and 4 rebounds
B. Longbottom – 4 points and 8 rebounds
B. Speaks – 2 points and 6 rebounds
C. Howell – 2 points and 2 rebounds
A. Longworth – 20 points and 14 rebounds
T. Harris – 9 points and 2 rebounds
B. Burgess – 9 points and 3 rebounds
B. Loredo – 4 points and 6 rebounds
J. Mayes – 2 points and 5 rebounds