HAYS - With their sights on a Mountain Valley Conference title, Elkin kicked off the second half of its conference slate in a big way Monday night in Hays.
Playing a make-up game from last Friday’s snowstorm, conference front-runner Elkin Elks withstood a furious North Wilkes comeback in the second and third quarters to cruise to a hard-fought 74-56 victory.
“We started off strong, 12-0 run,” head coach Kenneth Abrams explained. “When we took it to 19, we got a little sloppy. We press a lot and we gave up a lot of easy shots. Sometimes when you zone press, you’re going to give up the easy ones.
“When you have a lead, it’s hard to keep it. You have the other team trying to beat the door down, and you’re trying to keep from making mistakes. We fought to keep that lead and North fought to take it away. We’re just fortunate enough to get some good breaks. Overall, it was a good win,” he added.
With temperatures reaching near freezing outside the gym, the Elks opened on fire. Elkin forced three North turnovers in the first 1:32, jumping out to an 8-0 lead, forcing the Vikings to call a timeout.
The Elks cruised in the opening quarter, forcing eight turnovers in the frame and grabbing a 20-4 advantage at the end of one.
After back-to-back Frank Miller treys, Elkin grabbed its largest lead of the half at 30-11 with four minutes left until halftime.
But North rebounded and staged a furious rally to close the half. The Vikings score 16 of the final 23 points to trim the deficit down to 10 at 37-27.
Behind a raucous home crowd, North continued its comeback to open the third, cutting the lead down to two at 42-40, capping an impressive 29-12 burst.
After an Abrams timeout, Elkin responded with a run that very well may define the team’s season.
“At halftime, we were up by 10 and I told them that we needed to pull away,” Abrams explained. “They had the momentum heading into the locker room and they carried it over into the third quarter. Then next thing you know, we’re only up by two.
“But I was proud of the way we finished the third quarter. Our man defense was great and most of our points came in transition off of great defensive readings and key one-shot opportunities. We ran off 14-straight points and that third quarter won the game for us,” he added.
Sam Lane drilled a three to jump-start the burst as the Elks scored the final nine points of the frame, highlighted by a thunderous Trey King dunk on the fast-break.
Miller opened the fourth sinking 3-of-4 free throws on an intentional foul on Jamiles Hayes to cap a 14-0 run that pushed the lead back out to 16 at 56-40.
Elkin continued its relentless play, closing the game on a 32-16 charge over the final 10:07 to give the Elks a season-defining 74-56 victory.
“They wouldn’t go away,” Abrams said. “But we had a good team effort defensively.”
Defensively, Elkin forced 22 North turnovers on the night. Offensively, Lane and Miller powered the Elks with 25 points apiece, nearly out-scoring the Vikings alone (56-50). Chris Hudspeth added seven points on the night, while the King brothers tacked on six points apiece.
“Sam Lane and Frank Miller lit it up. Frank was hot from the outside and Sam was tremendous from the inside tonight,” Abrams said.
With the win, the Elks remain perfect in conference play, improving to 9-0 on the year.
Elkin returns to the floor with two conference games this week, hosting Alleghany Tuesday night before heading to second place Wilkes Central Friday night.
“I hope this win can carry over, but we’re going to take it one night at a time,” Abrams added.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.