RONDA - The Buckin’ Elks held powerhouse Wilkes Central in check in the teams’ first two meetings of the season en route to the conference regular-season title.
But the Eagles finally broke through Friday night, knocking off top-seeded Elkin 55-46 in the Mountain Valley Conference Tournament Championship Game at East Wilkes.
“Third quarter hurt us,” head coach Kenneth Abrams said. “We went cold and we didn’t rebound well, and they went on a run. If you don’t rebound, this is what happens. Wilkes Central played a little bit tougher than us in the second half.
“But I’m proud of my kids,” he added.
The Elks started strong on both ends of the floor, putting pressure on Central early on.
Elkin used a suffocating full-court press in the first quarter, jumping out to an 11-2 edge and led 11-5 after one.
The Elks held serve in the second, maintaining their seven-point bump on Wilkes Central and took a 23-16 advantage into the locker room.
In the third, the Eagles began fighting back, using an 11-4 charge to draw even at 27-27 late in the frame. The squads headed to the fourth and decisive quarter knotted up at 31-all.
Central drilled an opening trey to grab a 34-31 lead and never looked back, pushing its advantage out to six midway through the frame.
The Elks cut the lead to one at 39-38 on a Chris Hudspeth three and a Sam Lane put-back down low, but were never able to pull even.
Free throws decided the game late, as the Eagles hit 10-of-15 from the line in the final 3:42 and Elkin missed the front-end of three one-and-ones in the frame.
Central added the final touches in the 55-46 upset win to capture its third-straight tournament title.
“Tough, hard loss. I’m proud of the kids - great year. We worked hard to get here and we gave it our best shot,” Abrams said.
Lane poured in a 14 points to lead the Elks offensively, while Trey King added 10. Frank Miller tacked on nine with Hudspeth, Josh Strickland and Calvin Yarboro adding three points apiece.
Despite the loss, the Buckin’ Elks turned in one of the most successful runs in program history, finishing the regular season with a 20-7 mark and captured the school’s first conference title in 15 years.
Elkin returns the court tonight looking to bounce back in the first round of the 1A state playoffs, hosting neighbor East Surry. Abrams believes his team will be ready.
“I’m going to have to keep the kids positive. This one is behind us now and we can’t sob over it,” he said. “It’s going to be hard for them to get over this loss, but we’ll be pumped up for the game Monday.”
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.