Nash Central girls survive upset scare; Northern Nash loses in Big East Conference tournament opener
By PATRICK MASON
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
BAILEY — The Southern Nash girls basketball team put together one of its best games of the season, but couldn’t knock off Nash Central in the opening round of the 3-A Big East Conference tournament on Tuesday.
The Firebirds used a hot-shooting second half to put a scare into the Bulldogs, but Myia Spivey and Kayalin Mitchell did just enough to keep Nash Central in front for a 52-44 victory. The Bulldogs advance to the second round where it will face second-seeded Wilson Fike on Thursday.
Spivey and Mitchell, along with a strong fourth quarter from guard Michaela Nelms, did just enough to avoid an upset on the Firebirds’ home court.
“We’ve definitely played better,” Spivey said. “It was very frustrating because they kept hitting those outside shots and we couldn’t step out to defend them quick enough.”
The Firebirds made seven 3s in the game, giving the Bulldogs (14-8) a taste of what they did in the first half. No. 3 Nash Central also made seven 3s, with five coming in the first half. Mitchell and Spivey combined for all seven, and shot from opposite wings on the court. That spaced the floor just enough for Nelms to cut inside for layups.
“I usually shoot a lot of 3s,” Spivey said. “I get in trouble for that a lot.”
But it’s hard for coach Terri Cash to be angry with the starting guard when the shot is falling. Mitchell finished with a game-high 18, with Spivey scoring 15, all on 3-pointers.
No. 6 Southern Nash looked to have lost control of the game early and trailed 25-12 at halftime. The Firebirds hadn’t won a conference game this season, and struggled yet again. But with one half of basketball in their season remaining, the Firebirds emerged with new energy and aggressiveness that was lacking for much of the season.
Guard Stacie Winner made four 3-pointers in the game, including three in the second half, to finish with a team-high 12 points. Jessy Lucas knocked down a pair of 3s in the second half, and point guard Aaliyah Newkirk added another three to cut into the Bulldogs large lead.
“We played hard and played with confidence,” said Newkirk, who finished with 11 points. “Coach (Jordan Bass) told us to play with pride and that’s what we did. We pushed the ball and started to take shots we could make. It turned into our best game of the year.”
Southern Nash (3-19) outscored the Bulldogs 32-27 in the second half, and even cut the deficit to 46-41 late in the fourth quarter. But it couldn’t get any close as Nash Central made just enough free throws down the stretch to hold onto the win. Nelms had six of her 12 points in the fourth quarter. It was just what the Bulldogs needed as the offense dried up elsewhere.
“We’re going to have to take it one step at a time and figure some things out,” Spivey said. “And we don’t have that much time because it’s going to be hard to win if we play like this against Fike.”
No. 4 Wilson Hunt 35
No. 5 Northern Nash 25
Northern Nash kept a dangerous Wilson Hunt offense at bay in the first half, but couldn’t keep up that intensity as the Knights lost in the opening round of the 3-A Big East Conference tournament.
Markela Avent scored all of her team-high seven points in the first half for the Knights (8-17), who seemed to have an athletic Warriors team figured out. Northern Nash kept Hunt on the perimeter, where it struggled to find any consistency.
Freshman center Kristian Johnson finished with two points and eight rebounds, and was the source of the Warriors’ frustrations. Johnson said the key to keeping up with the Warriors (17-7) was being able to run the floor with them. But Hunt was able to find ways to leak a player out as the game wore on as it started to build its lead.
“We matched their intensity for most of the game,” Johnson said. “We usually get tired quick, but we stayed up and brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm. We kept that up for a long as we could.”
Hunt outscored Northern Nash 11-4 in the third quarter and never trailed again. No player finished in double figures in the game, but the Warriors depth won out. They got at least two points from 11 different players, led by Kayla Kent’s eight.
The Knights lose just two players to graduation, and Johnson said that she has paid close attention to how the top teams in the conference are playing, and is excited to build a strong team with her young teammates.
“There’s a lot of quick teams and teams that run the floor,” Johnson said. “In middle school you don’t see that. I’ve been learning different moves under the basket, how to post up, and really working with my teammates to do good things. I’m already excited for next year because will be better.”