PILOT MOUNTAIN — The Golden Eagles used an 11-3 run to stretch open a two-point game in beating Wilkes Central 71-60 Friday.
In the Christmas tournament at East Surry, Surry Central led just 43-41 with less than 10 seconds left in the third quarter.
Guard Colby Chilton made two free throws with six seconds left for a 45-41 lead.
Then Surry continued the run to 56-44, and Wilkes could get no closer than eight the rest of the way.
In the first half, center Zach Wilmoth sparked Surry to an early lead. He scored three straight times as the Golden Eagles went up 10-3 in the first four minutes. Wilmoth had 14 points by halftime and 25 in the game.
Wilkes Central made a comeback by living at the foul line. The Eagles were a perfect 7-7 in the first quarter and 13-15 in the first half.
Surry, on the other hand, was 0-3 from the line in the first quarter. Then the team began to attack the basket more and got to the foul line 42 times in the next three quarters, making 33 of them (78.6 percent).
Luke Haymore got all six of his first-half points at the foul line and was the only Golden Eagle to make a free throw until Chilton’s two just before the half.
Wilkes’ bench helped keep the team in the game. The reserves provided 22 points, and the frequent substitutions kept fresh legs on the floor to hound the ball handlers.
Surry Central committed 26 turnovers in the game, 14 coming directly on steals and others forced by the swarming pressure.
The Surry bench didn’t have a single point in the first three quarters, a change from most of its games.
Then backup point guard Rocky Collins gave the team a lift in the fourth quarter. After some turnovers earlier in the game, Collins provided a steadying presence on the floor. He handed out three assists and made all six foul shots in the last 5:26. He also had four of the team’s eight steals.
Wilmoth finished with a double-double of 25 points and 15 rebounds, plus a steal.
Chilton added 15 points, seven rebounds and shot 56 percent from the field. Haymore had 14 points, three boards and an assist.
Simeon Bracken added six points, and Brett Mosley four.
The Golden Eagles shot 50 percent on two-point shots and held Wilkes Central to 32 percent inside the arc.
“For the past few years, we have lived by our reputation that we come out and challenge the other team defensively,” said Coach Ken Eiswald. Lately, the team hasn’t been playing Surry Central defense, and even some of the fans have made note of that, he said.
Coming into Friday’s game, the coaching staff challenged the players to step up the defense.
“And they did play that way from the opening tap to the final possession,” Eiswald said.
“When you really put the screws to them, it feels easier on the other end,” the coach said. Players don’t have to press on offense to keep up with the other team’s scoring.
As for Collins, Eiswald said it was the guard’s best floor game so far. As a transfer from North Surry, Rocky hasn’t had that much playing time with his teammates and certainly hasn’t been in this type of pressure situation.
Wilkes Central has a lot of quickness, so the coach was proud of the guard for staying calm.
Surry Central next plays Jan. 2 at home against Elkin.