RONDA — For East Wilkes fans there is plenty of reason to be excited for the final two regular season games. This past week was a solid one for the varsity girls and boys basketball teams, as they went eight games up, and eight wins down, capping it off with wins against Surry Central Saturday night.
Behind solid second and third quarters, the East Wilkes Cardinals were able to overtake and pull away from Surry Central Saturday night for a 54-36 win.
Down 13-10 after the first quarter, the Cardinals (14-6, 10-2 MVAC) outscored the Eagles 32-11 over the next two quarters to win its fifth straight contest. Defensively, holding the Eagles to 11 points in the two quarters that can swing a team’s momentum in either direction was key to the Cardinals win.
“I thought our man-to-man defense was good tonight, and we shared the ball extremely well,” Head Coach Matt Campbell said. “We had 22 assists too, which is a great sign this late in the year. We’re looking for the open teammate and I’ve got to give credit to the girls, they worked their tails off in back-to-back nights.”
The night before, senior night was made special by taking down Alleghany 47-30. The team played seven games in an 11-day span, only dropping one last Thursday to Wilkes Central. Despite the hot streak the team has gone on, the last thing it’s going to be is complacent.
“Complacency will kill us quickly. It ends your season for most teams. When you’re complacent you’re letting other teams catch up to you or pass you. You’ve got to continue to have that drive and I think we are,” Campbell said.
The team’s final two games of the regular season are certainly going to be tough. The team travels to Elkin Tuesday night then travels again to North Wilkes Friday night. With Elkin sitting at 11-1 and both the Cardinals and North Wilkes at 10-2, there is huge potential for a shuffle in the standings leaving Friday night.
East Wilkes hung on to defeat Surry Central Saturday night, closing out what was a solid week for the Cardinals.
A 56-53 win over the Eagles capped off a solid four-game week for the Cardinals, but it did not come easy. The two teams had traded the lead a few times, and after a 3-pointer by the Eagles made it 54-53 with just over 22 seconds remaining, a travel call on Shareef Ray looked like it’d give the Eagles a chance to penetrate inside for the go-ahead bucket.
That’s when East Wilkes junior Grant Bare stepped up big to force a charge that gave them the ball right back. On the ensuing possession, senior Andrew Nance sank two free throws on the double bonus that were huge with only 3.7 seconds remaining in the game. Surry Central would still have one last shot to tie things up at the end of regulation that went off the side of the backboard.
The combination of Nance’s clutch free throws and Bare’s physicality were highly praised by Head Coach Brad Davis.
“We’ve got guys that are tough and Grant, and Joah [Logan], Weston Miller… will step in and draw a charge. That’s a huge play,” Davis said. “When you draw a charge you’re putting your team in front of yourself.”
Like the girls, Friday night was also special for the team’s three seniors in Ray, Nance and Camon Bryan. Nance, Ray and Logan have all been near the top of the stat sheets for the most part all season long, but Bryan has been stepping up his game each week, and it showed in a 62-50 win over Alleghany with six big rebounds.
“His physical presence is there. He worked hard against the big kids in Alleghany and tonight the same thing, he’s been answering the call. … We started him last night for senior night and he earned a starting spot tonight, and I’m so happy it worked out,” Davis said.
In less than a month, the Cardinals have gone from a winless team in conference play to having the potential to be .500 at the end of the regular season. For conference tournament play, they’ve made the jump from last to a two-way tie for fifth which could pit them against Ashe County or Alleghany, two teams they defeated this past week.
“I think they’re having fun. When you’re winning, everybody’s happy for the most part. We’re in a good spot right now. The guys are working hard,” Davis said.
There’s still work to be done though. East Wilkes travels to Elkin Tuesday night before a boys varsity-only game against Atkins as part of a rescheduling agreement from football. They’ll close out the regular season on the road against North Wilkes. The boys game against Atkins will start one hour earlier than normal, at 7 p.m.
Ryan DeCosta can be reached at 336-258-4052 or via Twitter @rsdecosta.