ELKIN — A favorable fast start and contributions across the board helped Wilkes Central claim its second-straight Mountain Valley Athletic Conference girls basketball championship on Tuesday night.
With their 64-36 win over Elkin inside N.H. Carpenter Gymnasium, the Eagles earned a share of the MVAC title with both Ashe County and Alleghany.
The three teams, along with West Wilkes, were tied for the conference lead heading into Tuesday’s games. It’s also the third conference title that Central has either shared or won outright since the 2014-15 season.
And now the Eagles will turn their attention to the MVAC tournament, which begins at home tonight (semifinals and finals will be at North Wilkes). Central, which garnered the No. 3 seed and will host No. 6 Starmount at 6 p.m., has won the last two conference tournaments.
“I’d rather share it than not have it all. Wilkes Central basketball, both girls and boys, has a rich tradition and to be able to keep that going is something the girls can be proud of,” said Wilkes Central Head Coach Greg Davenport. “I told them starting Friday night, we’ve got to go 1-0, just like we tried to do last year.”
Looking to bounce back from last Friday’s loss to the Huskies, the Eagles quickly jumped out to a double-digit lead (14-3) after an Erica Wyatt 3-pointer.
Central (17-5, 11-3) continued to grow the lead, taking a 25-9 advantage on a Jacklyn Richardson layup following an assist from Wyatt.
Wyatt, who led the Eagles with 21 points, pushed the lead to 31-11 with another triple.
“We talked about getting out to a quick start. The last two or three games that we’ve not come out on the winning end, we’ve struggled with bad starts,” said Davenport. “We’ve been able to finish strong in those games but we got so far behind early, so we talked about making sure that we come out tonight with good defense and get some transition baskets and early baskets.”
Elkin (3-19, 1-13) tried its best to cut into the deficit out of halftime. But the Buckin’ Elks could only get as close as 15 at 42-27 after a deep two from Olyvia Martin.
However, Central responded with back-to-back 3-pointers from Madison German and Sarah Lowe; a pair of German free throws pushed the advantage back to 20.
A Catherine Chaquea layup and a 3-pointer from Azariah Banks extended the lead to the eventual 28-point margin of victory.
In addition to Wyatt, German added 11 points while Lowe and Chaquea added nine and eight, respectively, as eight different Eagles got into the scorebook.
“I preached to them at halftime and told that all we’ve done is played just a half of basketball. We can’t let them hang around and we were able to grow the lead,” said Davenport. “It was one of those games where everybody stepped up and one of those games where you can get a lot of people in and play them a lot of minutes. I thought everybody stepped played well.”
Notes: Wyatt hit the 1,000-point milestone late in the first quarter on Tuesday night. According to Davenport, a ceremony to honor Wyatt’s scoring milestone will be scheduled for the Eagles’ first-round tournament game. Jennings, who was recognized before the game for scoring her 1,000th point (against Alleghany on Jan. 28) before the game, led the way for Elkin with 21 points and Selena Islas added five. The Eagles also captured the JV game, 31-19, to conclude the regular season at 15-4 and 11-3 in the league — second behind Ashe County. Jayla Smoker led the Eagles with 16 points and Ryleigh Parker and Katie Nichols added seven points apiece. Lily Gambill paced the Elks with nine points.