ELKTON — Elkton wanted this badly.
The boys’ train of adrenalin nearly flew off the track at times, but the host Golden Elks won their 2A East Region I final over Harford Tech, 58-48, on Tuesday night. They earned their plaque with a relentless defensive attack that kept them in the lead for good after the first quarter – quite a different result from the teams’ first two meetings this season.
“It feels great to bring something back to Elkton basketball that we haven’t seen in a while,” guard Trevin Ewing said. “We knew where they were trying to get the ball, so we focused on that – moving around. To (win) on our home floor in front of all our fans, it feels amazing.”
Each team beat the other on the road by a slim margin, with the Cobras claiming a 70-66 victory just last week.
“The kids worked very hard and they refused to lose,” Elkton head coach Charles Givens, Sr. said. “(Tech) scored prolifically when they played here, so we preached defensive intensity. We just tightened up the whole middle.”
Tech took an early 6-0 lead, but as the tempo of the game increased, the Elks (13-9) went to work. They began forcing turnovers at will, and the offense responded with a 12-4 run that put Elkton in front 12-10 by the end of the first quarter.
The hosts quickly added to their lead, as Ewing and Marques Battle zigzagged their way to the basket multiple times. Kareem Howell found his way inside as well, filling in admirably for AJ Moncrieffe, who sat out most of the first half due to foul trouble. The Elks briefly led by double digits before entering the half with a 26-18 advantage. They committed just five turnovers over the first two frames, compared to 11 by Tech (12-12).
“We knew it was going to be a dogfight,” Tech head coach Drew Gill said. “Tonight Elkton made the plays to win the game. They do a terrific job in that 3-2 and it seemed like their rotations were good, they were fast and every shot was contested. They didn’t give us anything easy.”
Elkton went a little turnover-happy itself in the third quarter, but the defense kept the Cobras off balance on the other end. Harford Tech eventually cut the lead to just five at 37-32, but the Elks kicked it up a notch again with five points in the last 30 seconds of the period, which was punctuated by Battle’s one-handed slam dunk.
Elkton maintained a 7-to-10-point lead through the first few minutes of the fourth quarter, but more turnovers made the home crowd nervous. The Elks put that fear to bed with another five-point swing. Tyler Jenkins sank the only 3-pointer in the game for Elkton, and Ewing immediately followed that with his own one-handed slam off a coast-to-coast steal. That gave the hosts their biggest lead of the game, 56-41, with only three minutes left. They made just two free throws after Tech was forced to foul, but the lead was enough to secure the win.
Givens was happy to see Ewing overcome some mental mistakes earlier in the game.
“He keeps you on the edge with his turnovers, but he contributes a great deal,” he said.
Ewing led Elkton with 17 points, while Battle notched a double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds. Howell was close behind with 12 points.
In his last game with the Cobras, senior Terrill Lowery, Jr. scored a game-high 19 points, including three treys.
“I’m proud of these guys. They stuck together throughout the year,” Gill said. “I think some people had written them off a month ago, and they just kept fighting. Up until tonight, I thought we were playing our best basketball, which was good to see. We had a great group of seniors, and I’m going to miss the heck out of those guys.”
Elkton will now travel to meet Oakdale. Givens said his players will be ready for any challenge that lies ahead.
“The kids know and I’ve said it all season long that our game is going to be defense,” he said. “It showed tonight. Nobody slacked off.”