The brackets for the upcoming Mountain Valley Athletic Conference tournament were released Monday. For some teams, it’s their last hope to make the 1A/2A state tournaments, and for others, it’s a chance to cement themselves as a favorite to win it all.
Starmount and Elkin each earned shares of the regular season championships for boys and girls, and were named the No. 1 seeds for the tournament set to begin Wednesday. To paraphrase the late Vince Lombardi, on any given night, any team in the MVAC can beat any other team, so with that parity, let’s take a look at the first round matchups.
Both No. 1 seeds are coming off of a loss, and on the boys side, Starmount is looking to move on from that, and get a win to advance to the semifinals on Thursday. First, they’ll have to get through their biggest rival in any sport. Elkin travels to Boonville Wednesday night for the basketball edition of the Battle of the Bridge.
Starmount is the clear favorite here. They’ve swept the season against the Buckin’ Elks, with both wins coming by over 30 points. Elkin’s only hope is to play physical on the boards, and that presents a challenge all on its own against Guilford College commit Kyler Gregory, who has arguably been the team’s most valuable player this year. The winner of that game will play the winner of Alleghany and Wilkes Central Thursday at Ashe County at 5:30 p.m.
No. 6 East Wilkes is on the road against No. 3 Ashe County Wednesday night, and one could argue that this matchup will be the one to watch. The two teams split the season, both unable to win on their home court. The first time out, the Cardinals saw their comeback bid fall just short, but increased their physicality the next time they played and got the win. Neither Ashe nor East Wilkes have closed the book on the regular season strong, making this game completely up for grabs. Who wants it more? Hard to go against the team that won it last. The winner of that game moves on to play Thursday at 8:30 p.m. against the winner of No. 2 North Wilkes/No. 7 West Wilkes.
No. 1 Elkin hosts No. 8 West Wilkes in the opening round of the girls tournament Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Elkin has had the edge so far this season, beating the Blackhawks by 16 and 19 the past two battles. The Lady Elks have not looked as outstanding as they did early on in the season, but they’ve fought through adversity and were still picking up wins up until last Friday night. The balance they have on offense makes them a favorite for this tournament. If both seeds hold, it creates an interesting matchup for Tuesday night, as they would play Thursday at 4 p.m. against Wilkes Central.
Wilkes Central defeated Elkin last Friday night, and it was a testament to their rebounding and ability to force turnovers. They still have the title of defending 2Achampion, and have made for some exciting matchups. The first time the two squared off, Elkin had the edge in a thrilling overtime win. Make no mistake, if Thursday night’s game is between those two, it’ll be a thriller once again. To create that moment, Wilkes Central still would have to take down Ashe County Wednesday night.
No. 3 East Wilkes hosts No. 6 Alleghany Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., and if the Trojans are to steal a win away, they’ll have to keep the Cardinals from stealing the ball away. Last time out in a 47-30 win, the Cardinals snagged 15 steals, with sophomores Gracie Brown and Tess Jolly having four each. One stat that stands out from their past two matchups is the rebounding. The Trojans have the edge in both, so there might be potential for an upset. They’ll play the winner of No. 2 North Wilkes/No. 7 Starmount.
Times have changed for No. 7 Starmount, although Wednesday night may close the book on their 2015-16 season as they travel to No. 2 North Wilkes Wednesday at 6 p.m. The Rams’ improvements are highly visible over the course of this year, and they were rewarded with not only snapping a losing streak that went on for years, but picking up more wins as the season went on. Still, their opponent is co-MVAC champion North Wilkes, who defeated them last week by 52. They’ll need one of the strongest defensive performances of their lives to have a shot, but if there’s a team that can jump out and surprise another team, it’s them.
Ryan DeCosta can be reached at 336-258-4052 or via Twitter @rsdecosta.