The outcomes of two games Friday featuring four teams produced a four-way tie atop the Mountain Valley Athletic Conference with one more set of games scheduled for tonight.
Confused? Then here’s the important thing — four different teams still have a chance to claim at least a share of the regular season conference title with a win tonight.
One of those teams is Wilkes Central, which still controls its own destiny despite a 54-44 loss to Ashe County Friday in Moravian Falls.
That loss dropped the Eagles to 10-3 in the Mountain Valley, and elevated the Huskies to the identical mark. A West Wilkes win over Alleghany in Millers Creek also left those squads with the exact same record, and made sure tonight’s games will determine a championship.
Eagles Head Coach Greg Davenport remained upbeat after Friday’s loss. A win tonight at Elkin (the Elks have struggled this season to a league mark of 1-11 after Friday evening) fulfills one of Central’s goals from the start of the season.
“From here on out, we know what’s ahead of us and we know the stakes,” said Davenport, whose team now has a 16-5 record overall. “Every time we step on the court we have to go 1-0 from this point on. We have to have the mentality that every game, starting Tuesday at Elkin, is a playoff game.”
Ashe County grabbed the lead at the 4:43 mark of the first quarter, when Audrey Craven drilled a three-pointer from the left wing in transition to make the score 5-2.
Another three, this time from Kenadie Hudler from the deep right corner, quickly followed, and after a free throw from Central’s Madison German, Ashe’s Craven sank yet another triple, and suddenly the lead had swelled to 11-3.
The visitors were up 15-6 after one period, but in the second frame Central cut that deficit to five on four separate occasions. The last time came with 1:59 left before the intermission, when Erica Wyatt hit a transition layup off a pretty assist from Azariah Banks to make it 24-19.
The Eagles, however, wouldn’t score again before the break, and a tough put back in the lane after an offensive rebound from Ashe’s Hallie Treva produced the halftime margin of 26-19 in favor of the Huskies.
The five-point differential proved to be Wilkes Central’s ceiling the rest of the way.
“We had some open looks,” said Davenport. “Unfortunately, as has been the case over the past couple of games, those shots just didn’t go in.
“We went through a span in the fourth quarter where we held them scoreless through five or six possessions,” continued Davenport, “but we couldn’t capitalize on the other end. It was a 12-point game at that point, and if you can get stops like we did you hope to cut into the lead and get yourself back in the game.”
Wyatt led the Eagles with 15 points and attacked the Huskies’ defense on half-court drives and in transition. But Wyatt played with foul trouble that plagued her in the second half and the senior eventually fouled out with 2:10 left in the fourth.
“This season, we’ve usually had someone step up in a situation like tonight and provide us with offense when we need it,” said Davenport. “But right now, as a team, we’re having trouble consistently finding the basket.”
Zoe Susi added 10 points for Central. Treva led all scorers with 19 points for the Huskies, connecting on three triples along the way. Craven added nine as Ashe also ended up with a 16-5 overall mark.
The Huskies host West tonight, meaning a four-way tie at the season’s conclusion is impossible. But depending on the other outcomes tonight (Alleghany will try for a share of the crown with a home game against Starmount), the winner in West Jefferson could outright earn the title.
Friday was senior night at the Eagles’ Nest, as Wyatt, German, Azariah Banks and Zakiya Banks all said goodbye to the Eagles faithful.
“I’ve coached these kids for two years, but I’ve seen them grow since their freshman year into great teammates and fine young women,” said Davenport. “I truly believe all four of them are going to step out into this world and make something out of themselves, and that’s the important thing. Life is bigger than basketball, and these four are ready to do great things as prepare for the next chapter of their lives.”
Note: The Huskies also took the afternoon’s JV game 52-35. The Eagles fell to 14-4 overall and 10-3 in the MVAC.