DOBSON - Next holiday season, the Buckin’ Elks will be playing in a Christmas tournament “somewhere,” according to coach Kenneth Abrams.
After a 12-day layoff between games, Elkin played “flat,” dropping a hard-fought 64-53 decision to non-conference power Surry Central Wednesday night.
A disappointed Kenneth Abrams said he won’t make that mistake again next season.
“Next year I’ll be in a tournament somewhere,” Elkin’s head coach explained. “I’m not taking a big break next year. I won’t do that again. I think the layoff had something do to with it, but I’m not trying to make excuses.
“We missed too many easy shots, and our defense wasn’t that great in the second half. We couldn’t buy a basket. We were just flat,” Abrams added.
The Elks started hot in a hostile environment, jumping out to an 11-4 advantage late in the opening quarter after a Trey King contested layup and lead 13-10 after one.
But the Golden Eagles turned up the intensity on both ends of the floor, led by big man Zach Wilmoth.
Wilmoth scored 13 of Central’s first 18 points to give the Eagles their first lead of the game at 18-17 midway through the second.
Elkin responded as the teams traded baskets down the stretch. After a Sam Lane ‘and-1,’ Surry Central scored the final three points of the half to take a 27-24 lead into the locker room.
The Golden Eagles came out on fire after the break, outscoring the Elks 21-11 in the frame to grab a 45-35 advantage after three quarters of play.
Foul trouble in the second half hindered Elkin’s suffocating full-court press as key players picked up quick fouls.
“Our key guys got into foul trouble early,” Abrams explained. “It was a lack of being visual on the court, playing with your hands and not your feet. Frank and Trey got three fouls early and they realized that and kept attacking us. And our strength is our backcourt.”
The Eagles kept attacking the vulnerable Elk defense, earning 35 free throw attempts in the final three quarters of play as King, Frank Miller and Chris Hudspeth picked up four fouls each, while Lane fouled out in the fourth.
Despite foul trouble and an “awful shooting performance from the field,” Elkin hung around and trimmed the lead down to nine at 60-51 on a Hudspeth layup late in the final period.
But Wilmoth (6-for-6 from the line in the final 1:46) and the Golden Eagles sank critical free throws to hold off Elkin’s late run, holding on for the tough 64-53 victory.
“Did the break have something to do with it? I don’t really want to say that. But we haven’t played in  days, so we were a little flat,” Abrams explained. “Our kids played hard, we just couldn’t hit a shot. We were awful from the field and couldn’t finish layups in our transition game. I wasn’t pleased with our defensive boards.
“We had a shot at the end. And if you look at the film, we didn’t make the layups again. There in the last three or four minutes, we blew four layups and that’s eight points. The only plus is that was a non-conference game,” he added.
King paced Elkin’s offense with a team-high 17 points, while Lane earned 12 hard-fought points in the paint. Hudspeth added nine points on the night, while Miller tacked on seven.
Wilmoth recorded a game-high 31 points for Surry Central with 11 rebounds. Colby Chilton added 14 points, while Luke Haymore tacked on nine points and five boards.
With the loss, the Elks dropped to 8-4 on the year and saw their seven-game win streak snapped. Despite the loss, Elkin remains atop the Mountain Valley Conference standings at 5-0.
“It was a good little run - seven-game winning streak. But I knew it was coming to an end,” Abrams said. “I’d rather lose this one than lose to someone in the conference.”
The Elks return to conference play tonight when defending league champion Ashe County makes the trip down the mountain.
“We’re not going to change anything, we just hope to finish. It’s a conference game and it is way more important than this one right here. Hopefully we’ll bounce back tonight,” he added.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.