PILOT MOUNTAIN — Kim Taylor wasn’t thrilled about spending time on the bench during the final stages of East Surry’s basketball game against South Stokes, but he made up for the lost time when he reentered the contest.
With just over a minute remaining, the Cardinals had the basketball, but trailed the Sauras 44-42. Head coach Jason Anderson called a timeout and put Taylor back in the game. The senior guard rewarded his coach with an offensive rebound and a putback score while being fouled. Taylor’s ensuing free throw with 56 seconds remaining was the winning point as East Surry (2-0) held on for a 45-44 win.
“Honestly, I was kind of mad when (Anderson) took me out,” Taylor said. “But my teammates came through on defense, and I saw the ball coming off the rim, so I just grabbed it and basically went up.”
Taylor was East Surry’s offensive catalyst throughout the final eight minutes. He scored eight of his game-high 12 points during the quarter, and Shawn Creed was the only other Cardinal to score during the period.
East Surry also needed a couple of crucial stops on the defensive side to come away with the victory. Before the game-winning play from Taylor, South Stokes (4-3) had a fastbreak layup called off because of a charge drawn by senior Staymon Johnson, who also finished with five steals and played some tough defense down low against the bigger Sauras.
“Staymon’s been doing that for four years. He takes charges,” Anderson said. “And it was about time we got one of those, because they had about four throughout the game.”
After they took the lead, the Cardinals played some ferocious defense and committed some smart fouls to close out the win.
However, one of those fouls produced a controversial decision from the referees. South Stokes big man Ben Bowen rose up for an elbow jump shot with 25 seconds remaining, but was slapped on the wrist by Johnson. The officials decided Bowen hadn’t begun the process of shooting, so the Sauras took the ball out on the baseline rather than receiving two shots from the free-throw line.
As the buzzer sounded, South Stokes had one last opportunity to snatch the win on a three-pointer from Bryson Misenheimer, but the shot hit the back of the rim and fell harmlessly to the floor.
The most impressive part of East Surry’s win for Coach Anderson was his team’s defense against the size of South Stokes. The guard-heavy Cardinals had to deal with Bowen, a 6-foot-8 center who scored five quick points in the first quarter, but East Surry tightened up and limited him to four points the rest of the way.
“Defensively, I can’t ask any more from my guys,” Anderson said. “(The Sauras) have good size, they have strong guards and really good players. But these guys played a heck of a ball game and made some plays at the end.”
The Cardinals trailed 22-18 heading into halftime, but they could have faced a larger deficit if not for senior Trace Simmons.
Simmons scored all eight of his points in the second quarter and knocked down two threes when his team couldn’t get into a groove offensively.
Aside from Taylor and Simmons, Creed and Tyler Smith each chipped in nine points to help East Surry escape with the win. It wasn’t the most efficient offense for the Cards, but Coach Anderson attributed his team’s struggles to “missed shots.” East Surry committed just 13 turnovers on the evening.
This was a needed start to a four-game week for the Cardinals. They will return to the floor on Wednesday night at home against the rival North Surry Greyhounds.
Lady Cards get first win
The Lady Cardinals came out flat in their matchup with South Stokes and immediately fell in a 7-0 hole after three minutes of play. Coach Caleb Gilley called a timeout and demanded more energy from his team, and East Surry responded.
Gilley’s squad immediately erased that deficit and led 11-9 at the end of the first quarter. The Lady Cardinals (1-2) sustained this quality play throughout the contest and gave their first-year head coach the opening victory of his career on Tuesday with a 56-47 win.
“It feels very good,” Gilley said. “Especially after Friday night… We came out of the second half against Surry Central (Friday) and didn’t play well. We felt like that was a game we could have won. Tonight we came out going through the motions, but after that early timeout, we changed who we were and got after it. We played really hard.”
One of the biggest differences in Tuesday night’s win compared to East Surry’s earlier losses this season was the bench play. Alyssa Martin and Cheyenne Fresch combined for 12 points off what had been a dormant bench.
With those two contributing, senior Sydney Marion was able to find some space, and she poured in a game-high 17 points, with nine coming in the critical fourth quarter.
“If Sydeny can score for us, it takes pressure off other people,” Gilley said. “Sydney can do a lot of things well… So if we can get her going, it should open up the floor for everybody else.”
Two other factors in East Surry’s win over South Stokes (4-3) were the Cardinals’ ability to rebound on the offensive end and push the basketball when they did get stops defensively. Gilley wanted his team to run on Tuesday, and East Surry was efficient in the transition game.
Maddi Pennington also continued her hot start to the season, pouring in nine points. Also in the backcourt was Karley Jessup, who scored 12 points and did a good job controlling the tempo for East Surry from her point guard position.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16