RONDA — Much to the dismay of the East Wilkes Cardinals, there was no magic on the court for the boys and girls teams Tuesday night as they each fell to North Wilkes.
For a little bit, though, the boys team looked like it had it. Cardinals basketball fans have Friday night’s comeback win over Elkin fresh in their memory, and Tuesday night’s 56-52 loss to North Wilkes almost had not only the same magic, but the same score at the end of regulation.
In the closing seconds of the girls’ game, they clawed their way back to a 52-49 deficit, with one final shot by Chelsea Edwards going in to force overtime. In the final minute of Tuesday night’s contest, the Lady Cardinals were down nine with just three minute remaining, but with 48.9 seconds, they were only down three points. The score? 52-49.
That’s where the similarities ended, as a 3-pointer try by senior Andrew Nance didn’t fall in the boys’ game, and on the ensuing possession, North Wilkes hit both free throws to pull ahead by five. Then, senior Shareef Ray came down the court and hit a running 3-pointer to keep the game within reach. With 7.9 seconds remaining, North Wilkes had two shots at the free-throw line and they made sure they hit them both, sucking the life out of the Cardinals’ chances.
Despite the loss, the team looked strong in spurts, and were down 25-24 at halftime thanks to a buzzer-beater by junior Joah Logan. However, in the first minute of the second half, breakdowns and both ends of the court allowed the Vikings lead to swell to seven. The Cardinals turned the ball over in the first 10 seconds as the Vikings came down the court and hit a 3-pointer. After the Cardinals couldn’t answer, the Vikings did the same thing again.
In past weeks, mistakes like that have snowballed into more mistakes, but the Cardinals simply weren’t going to let that happen. The team forced turnovers and capitalized on free-throw shooting to make it a game once again. They demonstrated that will to win last Friday night when after Elkin tied things up, the Cardinals began to pull away. Despite the loss, their coach said that the fight was there and that they need to be consistent for an entire 32 minutes.
“It could have gone bad, and the fight that our guys have and the will to get better and a will to win. They don’t stop fighting,” Head Coach Brad Davis said on the loss.
Following Tuesday night’s loss to North Wilkes, the girls find themselves in a dogfight for first place in the Mountain Valley Athletic Conference.
The Cardinals, Vikings, and Elkin Lady Elks all sit at 6-1 in conference play, with no clear cut at which team in the best. The Lady Elks took down the Vikings a few games prior to their overtime loss to East Wilkes last Friday.
“Whoever wins our league is going to have one loss. We’re still sitting good. I challenged them after the game saying, ‘How are we going to handle this?’ Learning and growing is what high school sports are all about,” Head Coach Matt Campbell said.
North Wilkes towered over the Cardinals in size, which allowed them to come up with some big rebounds. While the Cardinals put up a fight, they struggled to gain momentum after falling behind 40-20 at the half.
The Cardinals’ next challenge is on the road against West Wilkes.
Follow Ryan DeCosta on Twitter at @rsdecosta and elkintribune.com for updates on the games. If Thursday’s contest against West Wilkes has been rescheduled, time and date will be posted there.