The North Wilkes girls basketball team celebrated senior night in the best way possible with a 51-36 win over East Wilkes in Hays on Tuesday.
Senior Liz Martin led the Vikings with a game-high 20 points, 12 of them coming in the fourth quarter alone.
“Twenty points, a career high in rebounds tonight with 11; I thought Liz was spectacular tonight,” said North Wilkes Head Coach Steven Phillips after the victory.
The game got off to slow start as each team struggled to score early. Neither team shot well in the first five minutes, with both squads missing numerous shots.
A flurry of turnovers and ball movement in the last minute was capped off by a 3-pointer at the buzzer from North’s Haili Shumate gave the Vikings a 13-10 lead after the first quarter.
North’s defense turned up the pressure in the second quarter and was able to force the Cardinals into seven turnovers, allowing the Vikings to build upon their lead.
“The energy was really good in the second quarter. We had active hands and forced them into some traps. It was a good defensive quarter for us,” commented Phillips.
The Vikings (14-10, 6-8 Mountain Valley Athletic Conference) were able to go on a 6-0 run in the quarter, eventually building a 26-15 lead with less than a minute remaining in the quarter.
A late three from East’s Ava Thorpe, who led the Cardinals with 14 points, cut the Vikings lead to 26-18 at the half.
“They pressured us in some ways we hadn’t seen in a while and we were a bit sluggish in responding,” remarked East Wilkes Head Coach Matt Campbell. “Once we figured out we could kick ahead to the corners and then back pass to attack the gap, we got some good looks.”
East’s good looks came in the form of three third-quarter 3-pointers — two from Tharpe and one from Lilly Brown. East’s adjustments allowed them to close within four, at 31-27 with 1:15 remaining in the quarter.
The fourth quarter belonged to one player on Tuesday night as Martin became a force on both ends of the court. Martin drove the lane in the first minute to push the Viking lead to 35-27.
The Cardinals (4-18, 2-12) tried to respond numerous times, missing shots and then creating rebounding opportunities. Martin was a major factor in the rebounding advantage in the closing minutes, recording five of her 11 rebounds in the fourth.
In addition, Martin was 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the fourth, hitting key shots to keep the Vikings in front.
With 3:04 remaining in the game, Tharpe hit a three from the corner to cut the Viking lead to eight at 43-35. Martin came down the court and answered just five seconds later with a trey of her own — essentially icing the game at 48-35.
After the game both coaches were pleased with the efforts of their respective squads.
“Overall we did some very nice things on both ends of the floor,” commented Campbell. “The were able to spread the lead out in the fourth, Martin was able to basically double their lead with just a couple of outside shots in the fourth. Overall I was pleased with the effort and the energy.”
Phillips added, “Overall, the entire group of seniors (in addition to Martin, Anna Phillips, Madison Byrd, Morgan Tribble, Rachel Winkler, Savannah Royall and Taylor Harrold were recognized before the game), they all contributed. They’re a high character group of girls I’ve had the privilege to be involved with since elementary school. They’re all gonna be great after high school.”
Notes: Both teams are scheduled to participate in the first round of the Mountain Valley Athletic Conference Tournament on Thursday. East Wilkes traveled to Sparta to face No. 2 seed Alleghany while the Vikings will make the short trip to Millers Creek to face off against No. 4 West Wilkes. Winners of those games will advance to the semifinals of the tournament, which are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday at North Wilkes High School. The Vikings also captured the JV game with a 30-10 victory over the Cardinals. Mary Cothren led the Vikings (15-9, 7-7) with nine points and Zoie Wells and Brooke Settle added seven apiece. Cyana Chambers led East Wilkes (1-18, 1-13) with 10 points.