RONDA - Trailing by as much as 21 points in the fourth quarter to rival East Wilkes, the Lady Elks made things interesting Friday night in Ronda in their final game of the calendar year.
Elkin, winless through 10 games this season coming in, caught fire in the second half - specifically in the fourth quarter - and cut the once insurmountable deficit down to just seven with 30 seconds to play.
But senior leader Erin Royal knocked down crucial free throws to secure the victory for the Cardinals, 56-47.
“I think they believed they could play,” Elkin head coach Derek Carter explained. “I think we got over a hurdle tonight. I could see it in their eyes a little bit. To be down  and get it a close as we got it, I’m really pleased.
“We hit some shots tonight. The kids played hard and didn’t quit and the next thing I know it got interested. I’m tickled to death,” he added.
The Lady Elks trailed from the opening tip as Royal scored 10 points in the opening frame to give East a 12-5 advantage after one.
The Cardinals used a 15-8 run in the second quarter to extend the lead out to 27-13 at the halftime whistle.
East’s advantage ballooned out to 24 points at 40-16 on a pair of free throws by Diamond Hayes with 2:54 to play in the third period.
Then Elkin caught fire, starting with a 7-4 burst to close the frame.
Powered by Carrie Brown, the Elks scored 10 of the first 11 points of the final quarter to trim the lead down to 45-33 with 2:45 left to play.
Elkin kept scrapping and cut the deficit to 52-45 on a Courtney Beals jumper with 30.8 ticks remaining.
But Royal and Hayes drained four key free throws down the stretch to ice the game for the Lady Cardinals, 56-47.
“We ran the offense finally, and it made a difference,” Carter said.
Brown powered the Elks with 11 points on the night - including eight in the second half - while Beals added 10 points in her first game back after missing more than a month with an ankle injury.
“With Courtney coming back, that helped,” Carter said. “She wasn’t planning on playing tonight, but she never came out of the game. She brings a little bit of a presence in the paint. She is somebody they have to account for.”
Makayla Dimmette added nine points on the night, all coming in the fourth-quarter burst, while Cassidy Cook tacked on seven.
Royal led all scorers with 23 points with ShaNisha White pitching in with 12.
The Cardinals, who improved to 3-6 on the season and evened their Mountain Valley Conference mark at 2-2, return to the court this week at the CFE Shootout at East Surry. East will take on North Stokes Thursday in the opening round at 5:30 p.m.
Elkin, who fell to 0-11 on the season and 0-5 in the conference, will take a break off for the holidays and return to action January 2 against Surry Central.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.