One small flurry was enough to end a drought for the Avery County girls.
Tiffany Broco scored four of her game-high 12 points in a four-possession span of the fourth quarter, and the Vikings snapped a two-game season-opening losing streak with a 36-27 come-from-behind nonconference win over East Wilkes, Tuesday night in Ronda.
Avery improved to 1-2. East Wilkes, playing its season opener, fell to 0-1.
It was the first meeting in over a decade for the former District 7 and Blue Ridge Conference rivals.
Broco, a senior, is one of five holdovers from last season’s Avery team that won 21 games and reached the fourth round of the state playoffs.
That team graduated its top five scorers, and the current Vikings struggled in losses to Ashe County and North Wilkes.
That trend continued against the Cardinals. The Vikings hit only eight of their first 47 shots (17%) through three quarters.
The Cardinals weren’t much better, shooting 22% through three quarters, with the result a 20-20 tie entering the fourth quarter.
Broco snapped a nearly three-minute scoreless streak with a free throw to give Avery a 21-20 lead, its first since the first quarter.
Briley Church, one of two East Wilkes freshmen, drove the lane, splitting defenders Marisol Guzman and Addie Beck and converting a 3-point play to give the Cardinals a 23-21 lead.
Beck tied the game with a driving basket, but Church, who led East Wilkes with 11 points, hit a jumper from the baseline to give East Wilkes its last lead at 25-23.
Over the next three possessions, Broco hit twice from the same spot in the right corner, sandwiched around Reagan Hughes’ long jumper and one of Alexis Stines’ five steals.
It was only the second time in the game that the Vikings scored on consecutive possessions.
“Most of my girls didn’t touch the floor last year after multiple state championship runs by the girls who graduated,” said Allison Phillips, the Avery County coach. “This is the first time they’re getting to earn their time on the floor.
“Tiffany stepped up…,” Phillips added. “She was the only one who really scored for us in the first half…. Those two baskets completely changed the whole dynamic of the game.”
Broco’s second basket gave the Vikings a two-possession lead at 29-25.
Ava Tharpe pulled East Wilkes within 29-26 with a free throw with 2:01 to play, but the Cardinals got only a free throw from Jaelin Roberts in that final span, and the Vikings pulled away from the free-throw line.
“I was extremely tickled, for as young and inexperienced as we are, and to only score the minimal points we did of 27,” said Matthew Campbell, the East Wilkes coach, “we were in the ballgame the entire time and had the lead for most of the game.
“But I think that one word reared its head too—inexperience. Them switching up defenses and us not being able to solidly recognize it hurt us a lot.
“We’ll get that fixed,” Campbell added, “but it’s just like any trait that you want to be good at, you’ve got to have (repetitions). And we just haven’t had enough reps yet.”
Guzman, a sophomore, added six points for Avery. Tharpe, a first-year senior, and freshman Lilly Adams each had four points for the Cardinals.
Adams and Killian Warren each had seven rebounds. Avery’s Emree Hoilman and East Wilkes’ Lilly Brown each had three assists.
Avery took a 3-0 lead, but the Cardinals tied it on the first of Church’s two 3-pointers and took the lead on Jordyn Bailey’s fast-break basket off an Adams assist.
Kaleigh Couch’s turnaround jumper and Tharpe’s 3-pointer gave the Cardinals their biggest lead at 14-7 with 5:50 before halftime.
The Vikings twice tied the game in the third quarter, once on a free throw by Lila Cantrell and a second time on Stines’ steal and basket.
Each time the Cardinals answered the score with one of their own, and both times it was by Adams, who hit a long jumper from the wing and a length-of-the-court driving basket. The second gave East Wilkes a 20-18 lead.
The win was the first for Phillips as Avery’s coach. She was an assistant to Matthew Wiseman last season.
“It’s exciting,” Phillips said. “I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. This is the kind of basketball these girls play. It’s never pretty, but they have a lot of heart and they go for it really hard.
“I’ll happily get behind that team all day long.”
Note: Jeffery Hague, who was the Starmount girls coach last season, has joined the East Wilkes staff as an assistant coach…. Warren wore Savannah Martinez’s No. 34 in the first half and her own No. 32 in the second half.