Friday marks the start of a new year, and as each sports team has its own resolutions, it’s time to reflect on what a wonderful year of sports 2015 was. Let’s break it down sport by sport, starting with basketball.
East Wilkes looked poised to make a run in the 1A playoffs last season, finishing tied for second in the Mountain Valley Athletic Conference. However, the Cardinals’ title hopes were dashed thanks to a dominant performance by the Elkin Lady Elks in the second round. Elkin’s joy that came from the upset would not carry them to another one the following week, ending its season with a loss to Hiwassee Dam. Meanwhile, Starmount struggled to find a win, as it was the last season for Head Coach Mike Dodson.
This season, each team looks significantly different, and one is making a serious threat for the conference title. Elkin sits at 10-0 overall (as of Dec. 30) and is in sole possession of first in the MVAC at 3-0. The Lady Elks have been impressive in all 10 games, winning eight of them by double digits. Their biggest strength so far has been their ability to get points in transition, and if teams can’t adjust to that, they’re going to keep winning games. A New Year’s Resolution for this team? Keep improving along the boards. If they can improve their rebounding margin, they can be a team that has a deep run in the state playoffs. Their next match is set for Jan. 5 at Alleghany.
East Wilkes started the season playing the waiting game, thanks to a spectacular run by the football team. Seven games in, they sit tied for second in the MVAC at 2-0 with a 4-3 record overall. East Wilkes looked strong in the early part of December, winning four straight games, including one over defending state champion Wilkes Central. However, their most recent bouts at North Surry High School against East Forsyth and R.J. Reynolds were not kind to the Lady Cardinals. Their resolution? Work on mental focus, not allowing big runs to cost them. When the team has allowed some points to their opposition, they’ve struggled to settle back in at times. Their next match is set for Jan. 6 at Forbush High School.
Starmount’s record might not show it, but they’re a much improved team compared to their past few seasons. In an earlier article, I noted that one of their losses was their 50th straight in program history, and while it ruffled some feathers, the reaction on the court was much stronger than anything else. Their biggest weakness was in the rebound category, and they have worked on it extremely, and on Dec. 22 it finally paid off. They got good looks and kept the ball on their end for a 35-24 win over North Forsyth. Their resolution? Keep up the rebounds for the entire 32 minutes. In a recent loss to Ashe County, the team was ahead and looked poised to get its first win of the season. Then, the Rams gave up too many second-chance points and couldn’t get defensive rebounds. It arguably was the difference for them that night between a win and a loss, but they rebounded the following week with their first win in quite a long time. They might not be threats to win the conference title right now, but as this team continues to grow, never count them out for an upset.
Starmount was the cream of the crop last season, going undefeated in the Mountain Valley Athletic Conference and finishing with a 21-2 record overall and a 17-game winning streak headed into the playoffs. Their run would end in the third round to Winston-Salem Prep, last year’s runner-ups. Meanwhile, East Wilkes and Elkin struggled and failed to make the playoffs.
This year hasn’t been great for any of the three teams thus far at a combined 3-23 record. Starmount’s biggest loss hasn’t come in a final score, but rather their starting center Kyler Gregory, out for a few more weeks with a foot injury. If there’s a positive for them, Gregory will be back before season’s end, and in his absence the team has pulled together to be more multi-dimensional. Their resolution? Continue to keep the ball moving around, because once Gregory gets back, then opposition will be hard pressed to find a way to stop the Rams’ offense down the stretch. The Rams travel to East Wilkes on Jan. 5 for their next conference match.
East Wilkes has stumbled out of the gate as well with a 1-5 record. Its next match is likely going to be a learning experience for the team against Starmount. The Rams are much like Forbush, one of the Cardinals’ opponents from earlier in the season. In that game, the Cardinals allowed Forbush to penetrate on the inside far too often, and that can’t happen if they expect to win anything this season. With the new year, Starmount will be the start of a three-game week for the Cardinals as they travel to Forbush the following night, and host Ashe County on Jan. 8.
Elkin needs something. It’s not worth sugarcoating the fact that the team has lost every game by double digits. They have been frustrating to watch this season. Offensively, it seems like the same plays are being run, and it’s a rare sight to see two or more players touch the ball per possession. Albert Einstein once said that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” For the Buckin’ Elks, the insanity has to stop. Their resolution? Look within themselves, and if they see this and get ticked off, perhaps bottle that up and use it on the court. They can’t keep going through the motions and expect to pull off what they did in 2013.
Throughout the next few editions, Ryan DeCosta will be recapping the year that was for each of the athletic programs at Elkin, East Wilkes, and Starmount High School. Reach him at 336-258-4052 or via Twitter @rsdecosta.