When the top two teams in the conference square off late in the season, a great contest is usually expected.
And that’s exactly what the fans were treated to in Moravian Falls Tuesday night as the Eagles took down league leading Starmount 64-57 in overtime.
Wilkes Central, which improved to 10-2 in Mountain Valley Athletic Conference play (12-7 overall) had to overcome a seven-point deficit in the last two-and-a-half minutes of regulation to force overtime as the home team outscored the Rams 11-4 over that stretch.
Zach Mastin who scored five of the final 11 points in the run. Marcus Lopez scored 2 and Jonah Brooks had a big offensive rebound and put back. Brooks’ basket tied the game at 49 and was fouled.
However, he missed the free throw. Daylon Banks stole the ball near midcourt with 35 seconds remaining and hit a layup to give Wilkes Central a two-point advantage.
“That was a huge stretch for us. In the huddle we told the team we’ve been in this situation before,” said Wilkes Central Head Coach Matt Hagaman. “This sums up our team; there is no quit in these guys. We turned them over several times and converted them into points.”
Trey Dezern was fouled on a three-point attempt with 26 seconds left. He made the first two but missed the third attempt and Brooks snared the rebound.
Starmount had three fouls to give and they used all three in an effort to run down the remaining time.
“Jonah was big on the boards all night. It was not his best night scoring but he was a difference maker inside,” Hagaman said of Brooks, who finished with 10 points. “Give Jonah credit for his hustle to get down the court and get the rebound. That ball could have been anybody’s. He was big all night, he had a ton of rebounds.”
After the sixth team foul, Wilkes Central called timeout to set up the final play. With nine seconds left Banks got the ball on the left sideline and drove into the lane. As he put up the shot there was contact but no foul was called.
Starmount got the ball and called timeout with 3.9 seconds. On the ensuing inbounds pass, Marcus Lopez stole the inbounds pass but could not get off a shot.
In the overtime period, the Rams scored first to take the lead.
The Eagles responded with a basket from Brooks in the lane and a 3-pointer by Banks to take a 56-53 lead, which they continued to build on at the foul line.
Mastin, who led all scorers with 26 points, hit 5-of-6 in the extra period. Banks hit 2-of-4 and Lopez hit 1-of-2. Banks and Lopez added 14 and 10 points, respectively.
“First quarter was great, we came out and shot the ball well. Getting off to a good start was one of the goals for this game,” said Hagaman when asked to sum up the entire game. “We had started the last few games a little sluggish. In the second and third quarter we didn’t score much but we were only down four at the break. The defense held them to nine points in the third quarter, so we were in the game entering the fourth quarter.”
With the win, the Eagles are now tied with Starmount (16-6, 10-2) atop the MVAC with two games remaining.
The win extended the Eagles’ winning streak to eight games and handed Starmount their first loss in the last nine.
Wilkes Central is scheduled to close out the home schedule tonight as it hosts Ashe County then travel to Elkin for the regular season finale on Tuesday.
Starmount, which was led by 13 points from Alex Armstrong, plays host to North Wilkes tonight and travels to Alleghany on Tuesday.