Conference play to begin Friday


Rocky Mount High’s Rodney Alston, left, attempts to shoot the ball as Southern Nash’s Jalen Lucas tries to block the shot Thursday during the Nash County Christmas Tournament at Northern Nash.


Telegram Sports Staff

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Big East

Rocky Mount (10-2) vs. Wilson Fike (7-6)

Season so far: Only 12 games into the 2017-18 season, the Gryphons sit at 10-2, the same number in the win column as last year’s team.

It’s been a different climate and attitude so far, said Rocky Mount coach Michael Gainey, whose record last season was 10-12.

A newfound composure was on display Wednesday against host Nash Central, when the Gryphons trailed for much of the game -- at points by double-digits -- but chipped away to earn a comeback win in its final non-conference tuneup.

“There’s a lot of teaching that’s being done,” Gainey said after that game. “Young kids get out here and think they know the game of basketball but they’ve got a lot to learn. We try to tell them, ‘Buy in.’ That’s our biggest slogan this year -- buy in.”

It’s been a fairly balanced effort so far, with senior Rodney Alston’s 15.3 points per game leading the way. Javeon Jones (9.1), Jamar Ellis (9) and Shyheim Battle (8.8 points per game, 5 rebounds) are chipping in aswell.

So far, the results have been there. But Gainey, in his 21st year as head coach, knows the real season begins today.

“Like I told the guys, the non-conference stuff, it looks good and sounds good. Coming on friday is when it all kicks in,” he said. “We’ve been 0-10 going into conference, ended up tied for first.

“I’ve been in it so long -- it’s nice to have a nice record, but don’t get too hip hip hooray.”

Franklinton (2-9) at Northern Nash (13-1)

Season so far: In the three games after suffering their first loss of the season, the Knights have picked up a trio of wins. Northern Nash’s overtime loss to Rocky Mount High in the Nash County Christmas tournament put a stop to a 10-game winning streak to open the season.

The Knights, however, have rebounded and earned a title at the Bunn Holiday tournament, a showing that included two 20-plus point wins.

With Big East newcomer Franklinton opening the Knights’ conference slate, Northern Nash has an opportunity to start fast like it did last season. Northern Nash, one win away from advancing to the state final four last season, set up its deep playoff run by dominating conference play. The Knights went 10-0 last season against Big East teams, and they expect to go on a similar run this time around.

A large part of the Knights’ success this season comes from a starting lineup that hasn’t had trouble scoring points. Four players are averaging double figures, with Undray Cherry (14.4 points per game) and Joseph Cherry-Blue (14.1) leading the way.

Darquez Flowers, meanwhile, is almost averaging a double-double with 10.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.

Wilson Hunt (4-8) at Southern Nash (7-6)

Season so far: With its recent two-game winning streak, including last week’s overtime win over South Granville, Southern Nash has surpassed last season’s win total of five.

Wilson Hunt lost six of its first seven games, before rebounding to win its most recent two games. Those games, however, came almost a month ago so the Warriors will be rested, but could show signs of rust.

The 7-6 Firebirds enter Big East Conference play against a Wilson Hunt team that has had trouble on defense. The Warriors have allowed 802 points, second most in the conference. Northern Nash has allowed 829.

Jalen Lucas and Tyler Wilson lead Southern Nash in scoring, 11.5 and 10.7 points per game, respectively. Both Wilson and Lucas have made 24 3-pointers, helping the Firebirds stretch the floor.

After Friday’s game, Southern Nash doesn’t play again until Jan. 19 when it hosts Rocky Mount High.

Eastern Plains

Nash Central (8-6) vs. Wilson Beddingfield (5-6)

Season so far: Though the Bulldogs couldn’t hold on to a second half lead on Wednesday against Rocky Mount, big picture wise, Nash Central enters the Eastern Plains schedule on its best extended run of the season. It’ll be its first go around in the conference, having moved from the Big East at the end of the 2016-17 school year.

Coach Renny Taylor’s team, which had an uneven start to the year, due in part to senior turnover and the football season running late, began the season 3-5.

Since, they’re 6-1, the only loss being the one to the Gryphons.

Junior Ta’Rod Brown, who led the scoring last Wednesday with 17 points, is putting up a well-rounded season with 11.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Tim Bridges leads the team in scoring with 12.8.

“You want to be clicking on all cylinders going into conference,” Taylor said on Wednesday. “We’ve played well in stretches. It’s about bringing it together.”

SW Edgecombe (4-5) at Farmville Central (7-3)

Season so far: Coach Shelton Langley’s team is playing better basketball as the season progresses.

The Cougars have won five of their past six games, with only a five-point loss to Nash Central stopping its streak.

SouthWest Edgecombe finished 9-13 last season -- another campaign in which streaks were the norm. The Cougars put themselves in a position to do well last season until the season came tumbling down with five straight losses to end the year.

Savion Staton has been the story for the Cougars this season. The senior, super-athletic guard is averaging 21.4 points per game, which includes two games of at least 30 points.

Junior Keshon Pitt is the only other Cougars player averaging double-digit scoring (11.4 ppg.).


North Edgecombe (5-3) at RM Prep (10-0)

Both teams are off to encouraging starts this season.

Rocky Mount Prep recently won the RCNews- Herald Holiday Classic.

Juniors Trevor Batchelor and Sam Benton and seniors Khalil Baker Senior and Keyshawn Bryant were named to the all-tournament team in the process.

The foursome have spearheaded the Jaguars’ undefeated start, and the team is averaging 88.5 points per game.

They’ll play against a North Edgecombe team that is coming into the game with two straight victories.

Senior guard Keyshawn Epps is averaging 19.5 points per game, while junior Corkietha Parker is second on the team with 9 points per game.

Two of the Warriors’ three losses are to rival Tarboro, so it will be interesting to see how the squad does against a less familiar opponent.

Robersonville South Creek (2-12) at Tarboro (4-4)

Tarboro returns to the court having not practiced much at all during recent winter weather.

Prior to the snow, the Vikings fell into a three-game losing skid.

One positive for coach Reginald Bess’ Vikings is balanced scoring.

The Vikings have three players in double figures, led by Junior Caleb Whitley (14.1 ppg.), senior Shaun Lawton (13.6 ppg.) and sophomore Javiyes Massenburg (11.0 ppg.).

The Vikings finished just 6-14 last season.