Northern Nash boys, RMH girls finish conference undefeated
By PATRICK MASON
Saturday, February 11, 2017
Darius Spragley might have been in range from the parking lot.
The Northern Nash star drained a trio of 3-pointers in the third quarter, while picking apart a Rocky Mount High defense that had no answer for the senior guard. The Knights used Spragley’s big game to hold off the host Gryphons, 73-67, on Friday in a 3-A Big East Conference game.
The Knights finished off a perfect conference schedule with the win.
Spragley scored a game-high 26 points, including scoring eight points in the first 90 seconds of the third quarter. He finished with 15 points in the quarter.
“We needed some scoring because we knew they would be coming after us in the second half,” Spragley said. “I tried to keep a level head, and take any shot they were giving me.”
Northern Nash (22-2, 10-0) held a 38-28 lead at halftime by thouroughly outplaying the Gryphons. The Knights owned a 23-8 rebounding edge, and shot 14 of 25 from the floor. The Gryphons, meanwhile, were 9 of 36. But RMH spent halftime taking jumpers, and it seemed to help.
The Gryphons shot a blistering 12 of 14 in the third quarter, as Shyheim Battle had his way under the basket. The sophomore poured in 11 of his 14 points in the third. Coach Michael Gainey told Battle to shoot more often, he listened, and the Gryphons (8-11, 4-6) benefitted.
“Coach has been talking to me about shooting when I get the ball,” Battle said. “He doesn’t want me passing all the time. It’s a good feeling to know that he’s got confidence in me.”
With Battle hammering away inside, Rodney Alston emerged as a perimeter threat for the Gryphons. Alston kept them in the game with a pair of 3-pointers, including one that cut the deficit to 55-53 late in the third quarter. But that would be as close as they would get as Northern Nash withstood the barrage of points and took a 63-56 lead into the fourth.
Northern Nash wanted to get the ball into Spragley’s hands, and was thus the focus of RMH double teams. But the Knights have too many playmakers, and Raymond Bullock III and Undray Cherry took advantage of the extra room, combining for 28 points.
“This atmosphere was crazy, and we kept talking about playing as a team and using everybody,” Cherry said. “We tried to stay calm, and let it come to us.”
Knights coach Henry Drake said he and Spragley watched film to show his point guard how aggressive teams will be playing him for the rest of the season. In practices, the gave Spragley no room to move. And on Friday, he handled the pressure with ease.
“We have sets for every type of defense you can imagine that he will see,” Drake said. “He can handle anything. He’s mentally tough, and our guys are mentally tough. We’re playing like the No. 1 team in North Carolina right now.”
Rocky Mount High 60
Northern Nash 13
Shelby Meeks and Mya Pittman couldn’t miss, and the Gryphons ran away with a 3-A Big East Conference win to cap an undefeated conference season.
Meeks opened the game with a trio of 3-pointers, while Pittman drained a 3 and hit a layup in the lane, all before Northern Nash scored a point. The Gryphons led 24-3 after the first quarter.
“We thought they would come out and throw everything at us because they had nothing to lose,” said Meeks, who scored 15 points. “So we wanted to come out strong and try to get that first punch in. We just took off.”
The Knights (8-16, 2-8) just couldn’t get anything to fall. They scored three points in each of the first three quarters. The second quarter had a promising start as Shamiya Mercer opened with a 3, but they went scorless for the next 11 minutes.
Keyanna Spivey led the Gryphons (18-2, 10-0) with 16 points.