The East Wilkes boys basketball used a late rally to score a season-opening 59-55 win over Avery County on Tuesday night in Ronda.

Trailing 54-51 after a Troy Hoilman layup with 3:05 to play, the Cardinals (1-0) put forth one last charge.

Trey Lambert hit a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to one. Then Lee Billings came up a steal at midcourt and connected on a tough layup through heavy traffic to give the home team the lead.

Billings, a senior who made his varsity debut on Tuesday, finished with nine points.

Avery County (2-1) tied the game 55-55 but missed the front end of a one-and-one and the Cardinals retook the lead with a layup from Dylan Ward.

The Vikings had one last chance to tie the game after East was called for a backcourt violation with a little more than 30 seconds to play. Marcus Milliron, who was finished with 13 points but had been held scoreless in the second half, went in for a layup and Lambert came up with a big block to preserve the lead.

Lambert finished with eight points — one of four Cardinals with eight or more points — but didn’t hit a field goal in the second half. In his high school debut, Ledger Blackburn led all scorers with 15 points.

The margin of victory could very well have been more but the Cardinals went just 5-of-16 from the free-throw line and 9-for-23 in the game.

Luckily, Ward hit a pair of free throws in the final seconds to ice the game. Then the senior stole the inbounds pass to secure the win.

Brayson Church and Ward added eight and six points, respectively, for the Cardinals, who were supposed to travel to South Iredell on Wednesday, but the game got cancelled. They’ll be back in action a week from tonight against South Iredell. Caeden Howell also added six points for East Wilkes.

Troy Hoilman paced Avery County (2-1), which returns to the court next Tuesday at Ashe County, with 15 points.

Avery County girls 36, East Wilkes 27

The Vikings used a second-half rally to break into the win column for the first time this winter against East Wilkes in the Cardinals’ season opener on Tuesday in Ronda.

Avery (1-2) trailed 16-13 at halftime but tied the game at 20 after three quarters.

The Vikings used a nine-point third quarter advantage to pull away late. Tiffany Broco scored seven of her game-high 12 points in the fourth quarter.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, were held to just two points (and no field goals) in the final five minutes of the game.

Marisol Guzman and Reagan Hughes added six and five points, respectively.

Briley Church led East Wilkes with 11 points while Lilly Adams and Ava Tharpe added four points apiece.

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