Starmount and Elkin both clinched Mountain Valley Athletic Conference championships last week, but after closing out their regular seasons with losses, they’ll have to share.
The Starmount boys dropped their contest on the road Thursday night against Alleghany 44-41. Trailing 26-21 at halftime, and with the Trojans gaining momentum, a 3-pointer by Brendon Eads at the end of the third quarter put the Rams back in the game only down by two.
A late rally put the Rams (13-10, 11-3 MVAC) within one in the final minute, but after a miss by Kyler Gregory followed by a pair of free throws by Alleghany, the Rams only had one last shot. As senior Andrew Smythers’ 3-pointer attempt clanged off the back of the rim, the buzzer sounded, and the game was over.
“We did a good job pushing the ball around the perimeter, we didn’t get the ball to the block,” Head Coach Rocky Horton said. “That’s where we wanted the ball, except we made dumb passes.”
By defeating North Wilkes earlier in the week, the Rams earned at least a share of the regular season championship. However, the loss gave North Wilkes a shot to finish the season in a tie, a fate they sealed with a 66-58 win over East Wilkes.
On the girls side, Starmount (3-20, 2-12 MVAC) played one of its best halves all year but as a last second shot went in, their bid at a comeback came up just short.
Down 11 at halftime, the girls crashed the boards to tie it at 27 at the end of the third. After trading the lead back and forth, Alleghany had the lead with less than a minute to go. After missing an open layup, sophomore Skylar Martin earned redemption by sinking her next two free throws to make it 41-40. Then, the Rams forced a turnover on the ensuing rebound to give them the chance to take the lead with only a few seconds remaining. Sophomore Tecora Manns put the Rams out front, but Alleghany executed one last play to retake the lead as the buzzer sounded. Emotionally, this was a tough way to end the regular season for the Rams.
“You’re just competing and that’s what we want from our team every night,” Head Coach Jeffrey Hague said. “Our shots didn’t fall like we would have wished, but other than that I thought the effort was there and the competitiveness was there.”
Despite finishing tied for last in the conference, there was plenty of good to come out of the season. Snapping a 54-game losing streak wasn’t enough for the Rams. They wanted more, and they got more, picking up additional wins against West Wilkes and Alleghany.
“We’ve come a long way in my opinion, and I’m hoping that we can continue to improve, and if the girls work hard in the spring and summer, we’ll be in good shape,” Hague said.
For the boys team, they still were able to grab the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, and will host Elkin Wednesday night at 6 p.m. The girls will play at North Wilkes that same night at 6 p.m.
The Elkin girls also clinched their conference championship with a win against East Wilkes earlier in the week, but the defending 2A champs knocked them off the top seed. Wilkes Central, thanks to its stellar offensive rebounding, picked up a 52-48 win over the Lady Elks Friday night.
Leading 26-18 at halftime, the Lady Elks allowed 21 points in the third quarter to allow the Eagles to take a 39-38 lead into the fourth quarter. After the Lady Elks tied it at 42, from there on out, the Eagles were strong along the boards, getting second and third chances to put points up.
“You can’t give a team like that extra shots. It just boils down to that,” Head Coach Derek Carter said. “We had 22 turnovers and you’re not going to win against a team with that caliber with 22 turnovers.”
A great effort by junior Samantha Cozart on both sides of the ball kept the Lady Elks in the game. Part of Cozart’s 12 points on the night included a steal and basket to tie it at 42. For most of the year, she and many of the players that come off the bench have been unsung heroes, and Cozart was the example of that Friday night.
“She’s been the girl that’s kind of under the radar. She’s had a really good year and I was looking at the book, and she’s second in rebounds,” Carter said.
The biggest thing the loss impacts is the seeding for the state tournament. Entering the night, the team was projected to be a No. 1 seed in the 1A tournament according to MaxPreps, but have dropped to fifth in the state. A win in the conference tournament would likely bump them back up to that position with some help. They’ll host West Wilkes Wednesday night.
Following that act, the Elkin boys hoped that the energy from senior night would propel them to their second straight win at home. However, a slam dunk by Josh Hickman early sucked the life out of the room. The dunk only made the score 4-0, but from there on out, Wilkes Central made themselves feel at home the remainder of the half to lead 48-5. They went on to win 64-23.
The Buckin’ Elks (2-21, 1-13 MVAC) travel to Starmount Wednesday night at 6 p.m in the first round of the MVAC tournament. Ranked 91st in class, the team’s only hopes of making the state tournament is to first win the conference tournament. Anything less, and the team is done for the year.
The East Wilkes boys are close to being in the same boat as Elkin. After going 0-3 this week, the team is on the bubble at 9-15, 5-9 MVAC. The only sense of security is knowing that whoever wins the tournament earns an automatic bid into the state tournament, regardless of record. They’ll be on the road in the first round of the tournament. At press time, their opponent had not yet been determined.
Like the boys, the Cardinals girls also fell to North Wilkes Friday night, but will still host a home game come tournament time. Their opponent was also unknown at press time.
All first round games for both the boys and girls will be at the higher seed. Games from the second round on will be held in Ashe County, with the tournament champions, weather permitting, crowned later this weekend.
Ryan DeCosta can be reached at 336-258-4052 or via Twitter @rsdecosta.