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Northern Nash girls win tournament

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Northern Nash’s Kylar Wiggins, left, and Rocky Mount High’s Nadirah Harmon fight for possession of the ball Friday during the Nash County Christmas Tournament at Northern Nash.

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By PATRICK MASON
Sports Writer

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Shamiya Mercer heard the noise coming from the locker room nearby.

What the Northern Nash point guard heard was the Rocky Mount High girls basketball team getting ready for the Nash County Christmas Tournament championship game.

“From our locker room, since they’re close, we could hear them chatting and yelling,” Mercer said. “I think just that gave us the motivation. We told ourselves that we aren’t losing this game. We were going to win it all.”

Mercer and the Knights did just that, using an early run to jump out to a large lead, then held on for a 40-28 win over the Gryphons in the title game of the Northern Nash-hosted tournament.

Northern Nash (7-2) is already just one win away from matching last season’s total of eight. And Friday’s win over an RMH team that had dominated them in previous seasons was a strong indication that this year’s Knights have discovered ways to best make this roster work.

Mercer scored a game-high 14 points, including eight in the first quarter. Both Mercer and Kanasia Arrington each connected on a 3-pointer in the opening frame to pace a 13-0 run to open the game.

Mya Pittman’s 3-pointer with 3:30 left in the first quarter put the Gryphons (6-3) on the board to end the run. But the Knights weren’t done, as they opened the second quarter on a 7-0 run, and pushed their lead to 28-7 by halftime.

“We all remember the last time we played Rocky Mount and they held us to 13 points the whole game,” Mercer said of a loss last season to the Gryphons. “This was the biggest game and atmosphere we’re going to see for a while, so it was good for us to play well.”

The Gryphons beat the Knights by at least 25 points in both meetings last season, including the most recent, a 60-13 decision. But on Friday, it was the Knights who were able to create open looks while dictating the pace of play.

Northern Nash sophomore Kristian Johnson added nine points and four blocks. She made it tough for the Gryphons to have a presence under the basket, and helped keep possessions alive with timely rebounds.

“Playing as a freshman last year allowed me to adapt to things quicker this year,” Johnson said. “I see things different than I was before.”

By the end of the third quarter the Knights lead ballooned to 34-13. RMH made a push in the final quarter, however, and outscored the Knights 15-6. That’s when Alexis Moore found her range and made a 3-pointer, added a layup and went 3 of 4 from the foul line.

Moore finished with a team-high 12 points, with Pittman adding seven.

“We’ve got to get in shape to close out those games,” Mercer said.

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