RONDA — Going into Friday night’s contest, the East Wilkes Cardinals and Elkin Buckin’ Elks entered as the last two teams in the MVAC who had not yet won a conference game this season. The Cardinals came out ready to change that, and they did.
Tied at 26 midway through the third quarter, the Cardinals outscored the Buckin’ Elks 18-5 from there on out to win 44-31. The Cardinals (3-10, 1-5 MVAC) led the Buckin’ Elks (1-14, 0-6 MVAC) for the majority of the game, but senior Trevor Nance knotted things up with a 3-pointer.
“We started looking to get it to the basket,” East Wilkes Head Coach Brad Davis said. “I can’t say enough of how proud I am of them.”
In the first half, the Cardinals were not shooting the ball well despite leading 19-16 at the half. However, the Cardinals’ adjustments weren’t all that complicated. Their first possession in the second half set the tone for how they’d play for the remainder of the game.
“We ran 1:10 off of the first possession of that third quarter, and that’s what we wanted,” Davis said. “We’ve got to be patient.”
Overall, it took a team effort for the Cardinals to pull away. Sophomore Bradley Hicks had a bucket and the foul that ultimately sparked the run. Junior Joah Logan had 17 of his 22 total points come in the second half, while senior Camon Bryan had four of his eight points come in the fourth quarter.
If there’s one thing the team will have to work on as it gets ready for Tuesday night’s game against North Wilkes (8-7, 4-2 MVAC), it’s the team’s rebounding. The team only had 12 defensive rebounds, and that gave Elkin a few second chance shots that tightened the game up.
“It’s a process, and it’s hard sometimes. We get up for Elkin, and they get up for us. It’s just a rival game, but I think that we kinda sensed that we needed a win,” Davis said.
For Elkin, the biggest key to its loss was that it was giving the ball right back to the opposition. The Buckin’ Elks had 24 turnovers on the night, and while Head Coach Kenneth Abrams said his team played hard, the difference between a win and a loss was ball protection, and they didn’t do well enough at it. With it being a rivalry game, Abrams noted that nerves come into play. They especially did at the beginning, as Elkin gave up 11 of its 24 turnovers in the first quarter. It’s something they’ll be working on intensely as they prepare for a road trip to Wilkes Central Tuesday night.
“The turnovers they got were not forced. We were not focused. The turnovers and free throws determine the outcome of the game. [Wilkes Central is] a tough place to play, and if you go in there and turnover the ball like that, it’ll be over with in the first half,” Abrams said.
Despite the loss for the Buckin’ Elks, they’ve played significantly better over the past few games than they have all season. When they’re mentally focused and motivated, it shows on the players’ faces, and lately, on the scoreboard.
Elkin follows Tuesday night with a road trip to Starmount (7-8, 5-1 MVAC) on Friday night. Along with hosting North Wilkes, East Wilkes travels to West Wilkes (5-10, 3-3 MVAC) Friday night.
Ryan DeCosta can be reached at 336-258-4052 or via Twitter @rsdecosta.