Rise and fire

BRENT COWLES poured in a game-high 31 points in Wilkes County’s contest with Queen City last Saturday.

The action was fast and furious when the Wilkes County Flames hosted the Queen City Bulls during the second weekend of the Universal Basketball Association on Saturday afternoon, and in the end overtime was needed to decide a winner.

But after leading at the end of each of the first three quarters, Wilkes was unable to hold off a late charge by the Bulls, who defeated the Flames 108-104 at Lincoln Heights Gym.

Queen City improved to 2-1 to move into second place in the Eastern Conference standings, while Wilkes dropped to 1-2 and is now third out of the four teams in the division.

“We just played together,” the Bulls’ Tony Robinson said. “We played together, we believed in each other and we all started getting going. We had great success in getting to the lane, getting to the rack, and I was able to nab some buckets there. But we played together, most importantly, as a team. We came together through our huddles, we came up with a strategy, and it worked. It came out great.

“This is a big win for us. Coming off a win last week (the Bulls defeated the Carolina Cougars in their opening game before losing to the Charlotte Fury in their second contest), this is a great win for our team. We knew we needed this win to get ahead in the division, to move closer to getting to first place, so we knew this was an important game coming in. So we just made sure we went over everything and we executed, and we did what we had to do. We went to overtime, but we still pulled it out, thank God for it, it was great. It was big for us.”

During the early portion of the first quarter, both teams were basically feeling each other out, as the score was tied at 6 midway through the frame. But from there the Flames went on a 16-2 run fueled by the stellar play of center Francis Ashford, who during one stretch scored nine of 12 points for Wilkes.

All told, Wilkes ended the opening period by scoring 16 of the final 24 points to hold a 22-14 lead as the quarter came to an end. Also key was point guard Brent Cowles, who converted a pair of layups and a 3-pointer.

But the Bulls continued to fight throughout, and while they trailed 41-38 at halftime and 68-61 after the third quarter, it was the fourth quarter where they really started to turn things around.

As a matter of fact, after beginning the fourth period on a 12-4 run, the Bulls took their first lead, at 73-72, since leading 6-4 early in the first. And all 12 of those points came from behind the arc, where Robert Brown drilled three triples and Ian Salter added one of his own.

The Flames also got some clutch treys from Martin Hague and Trey Holmes, who each knocked down a pair from downtown, but it was a left-side layup from the Bulls’ Tony Robinson that knotted the score at 94 in the closing seconds of regulation to force the extra period.

Speaking of the extra period, after scoring the initial two points on free throws from Ashton Ford, Queen City held the advantage for the rest of the contest, although Holmes brought things closer on a couple of occasions thanks to his third and fourth 3-pointers of the night. Some late free throws from Ford and Corey Alexander helped the Bulls sew things up.

“I thought we played good in spurts and executed our sets very well, but we had way too many turnovers,” said Cowles. “We have to take care of the ball and close the game out.”

Leading the way for the Bulls was Robinson with 20 points and five assists and Brown with 19 points and six rebounds. Alexander added a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Cowles paced the Flames with 31 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, while Ashford had 27 points and six rebounds and Trey Holmes scored 16 points to go with 11 rebounds and four assists.

The Bulls host the Fury this Saturday at 3 p.m., with the Flames hosting the Cougars in the following game. After that, the Cougars host the Bulls on Sunday at 3 p.m. before the Flames entertain the Fury

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