WEST JEFFERSON - It took 15 years, but the Buckin’ Elks are finally champions.
Elkin grinded out an overtime win Tuesday night over Ashe County to capture their first Mountain Valley Conference Championship with their 14th victory of the season.
“Winning the conference championship is my first here at Elkin. I was just extremely happy for the kids. It is something they’ve worked hard, especially my seniors, and they got it,” head coach Kenneth Abrams said Wednesday. “It has been over 15 years since a banner has been posted on that wall.
“It was all over-whelming; I didn’t go to bed last night until 1:00, the adrenaline was still pumping. I’m just really happy for the kids,” he continued.
The win did not come easy as the Huskies gave the eventual champions all the could handle in West Jefferson. Elkin struggled early as both squads started slow. The Elks led only 7-4 after the first frame.
Lane - with nine early points - and Elkin pushed its lead out to 13-4 early in the second before Ashe fought back. The Huskies scored 15 of the final 17 points to take a 19-15 edge into the break.
“We started off pretty quick in the first three of four minutes, but then we hit a slow spot,” Abrams explained. “They started controlling the offensive and defensive boards and the tempo, and that hurt us. Going into the halftime, we were down 20-9 in rebounds.
“The only adjustments we made at halftime were mental adjustments. We were not doing what we were practicing and we were not doing what got us here. That was the half-time speech - going back to believing in our system. I told them that if our system didn’t work, we wouldn’t be in the position we are in now. And that hit home for them,” he added.
Ashe didn’t allow the Elks back into their system in the third, pushing their lead out to double-digits at 36-26 heading to the fourth quarter.
Still trailing by 10 at the six-minute mark, Abrams called a timeout to put the full-court press back in.
“I told them that our full-court press was either going to make us or break us,” he explained. “We went into our press and it was a team effort, led by Trey King. He had five or six deflections that caused turnovers and we got the loose balls. Defense and controlling the boards won that fourth quarter.”
Elkin began chipping away at the lead down the stretch. After Ashe’s lead swelled to 13, the Elks scored 10-straight points to cut the deficit down to 38-35.
King answered another Husky scored with a long trey to trim the lead to two at 40-38. Ashe then missed the front end of a one-and-one, setting up Elkin with a chance to win or tie.
“We had the ball with 15 seconds left and I called a timeout. We went into our normal set,” Abrams said. “Trey beat his kid off the dribble and got inside the lane and made the layup with about two seconds left to tie the game and send it to overtime.”
King’s buzzer-beating layup sent the game to overtime, where the Elks dominated.
“In overtime, I told the kids that we were going to win it,” Abrams explained. “We were going to do that by out-playing and out-hustling them, and we did that. We scored the first basket and we never looked back.”
Elkin out-scored Ashe 10-7 in the extra session to cruise to the hard-fought 50-47 victory and the conference title.
“I don’t think [winning the conference title] sunk in until after we got into the locker room. They were so happy about winning that game that we forgot we were playing for a conference championship,” Abrams said. “We stole one. They never quit and kept digging and digging. When you let these kids get a foot in the door, they’re coming in. Ashe opened the door for them first, then let them get a foot in. And that was a mistake - we took advantage of it.”
Sam Lane powered the Elks with 18 points on the night, while Trey King added 14. Kody King and Frank Miller finished with five points apiece.
With the win, Elkin improved to 17-5 on the season and 14-0 in the rugged MVAC, claiming the conference crown.
“They play their hearts out. I’m proud of them,” Abrams said. “This is a great group of young men. I have 11 basketball players on my team and I couldn’t ask for any better kids.
“The title is a great accomplishment. Any coach that coaches sports, their number one goal is to be better than everyone else in the conference. And we accomplished that last night. It’s a great feeling for the kids, the community and the school,” he added.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or email@example.com.