Team leader

WILKES CENTRAL’S Malaya Cowles, seen here against West Wilkes’ Brianna Lewis and Jamilyn Wilcox, led all players with 19 points.

The Wilkes Central girls’ basketball team earned its first Mountain Valley Athletic Conference win on Wednesday night against rival West Wilkes in Millers Creek thanks to a near triple-double from freshman Malaya Cowles.

Cowles finished with 19 points, 18 rebounds (nine on offense) and eight blocks as the Eagles (3-3, 1-1) rolled to a 46-35 win on Wednesday night.

“When she gets in foul trouble, we’re not the same team,” Wilkes Central Head Coach Shane Compton said about his 6-foot-2 forward. “She does so many things — she changes shots in the air, she blocks shots, she’s gifted. She is what she is but I’ll tell you something, our freshmen stepped up tonight — I’m not just talking about (Cowles), she’s produced — but the other two, Karlie (Anderson) and Hailey (Workman), gave us some huge minutes on both ends.”

Wilkes Central led the whole way as they took a four-point lead after the first quarter and extended that advantage to 10 at halftime. But the Hawks played level with the Eagles the rest of the way and Wilkes Central was never able to fully pull away for a decisive victory.

The Eagles led by as many as 15 early in the third quarter but West Wilkes, powered by Kelsie Huffman’s 16 points and Jamilyn Wilcox’s double-double (12 points, 13 rebounds), pulled back to within 10 points by the start of the fourth.

West Wilkes (4-5, 1-2) drew as close as eight points after Huffman drained a 3-pointer with 3:20 to play in the fourth but Erica Wyatt responded with a triple of her own to push the lead back to 11.

“Erica hit two huge threes in the second half,” Compton said. “They were huge because it felt like they were coming back, coming back and she buries a three and we felt a lot more comfortable.”

Wyatt finished the night with 10 points, going 4-for-10 from the floor and 2-for-7 from deep. Neither team shot the ball particularly well in the game as Wilkes Central made less than 30 percent of its attempts and West went 9-for-49 (18.4 percent).

But Cowles was the difference maker, especially early. She scored 15 of her 19 points in the first half and the Blackhawks had nothing for her.

“She had a huge impact and the thing is, we game- planned and we didn’t follow our game plan,” West Wilkes Head Coach Allie Greene said. “We did not execute at all and they did exactly what they needed to do — what we knew they were going to do; go to Malaya and she did the damage. Our goal was the keep it out of her hands but we did not do a good job of doing that.”

The two teams will stay in the county tonight as West Wilkes will play at East Wilkes and Wilkes Central will be at North Wilkes. The Eagles and the Blackhawks will meet again on Jan. 19 in Moravian Falls for the second installment of what Compton believes will be a fiercely competitive series between the two young teams for the coming seasons.

“I’m proud of them,” Compton said. “I kept thinking we were going to get away, get away, get away and those little girls are scrappy and they’re used to winning too. They’ve been successful against some of our younger kids.

“But we told our girls yesterday, it’s going to be a four or five year run with this group with West and there are going to be some dog fights and we wanted to win the first one and we did.”

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