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Gryphons basketball sweeps Franklinton

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Rocky Mount High’s Shyheim Battle, left, leaps in front of Franklinton’s Tyler Burnham to gain possession of the ball Friday at Rocky Mount High School.

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By SAMUEL EVERS
Sports Writer

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Rocky Mount girls’ basketball on Friday was playing just its second conference game of the season and its first contest overall since Jan. 12. And for the first three quarters at home against Franklinton, the rust showed, but the fourth quarter was different.

Entering that final period trailing by four after a lethargic third quarter, the Gryphons, led by nine points from Alexis Moore, came alive for a 15-point fourth, completing a comeback 42-40 win over the Rams for their first Big East win of the year.

The win, though, was in jeopardy until the final buzzer, when a Franklinton shot attempt from about five feet away rolled off the rim.

For the Gryphons (9-6, 1-1 Big East) and coach Pam Gainey, who entered the game on a three-game losing streak, it wasn't necessarily pretty, but the victory in any form was what they needed.

"Right now we’ll take a win when we can get it. There’s just a lot of areas that we need to do better in, then maybe it won’t be so tight,” Gainey said. “But considering what we’ve been through this season, to see them hang in there and stick around and give themselves a chance to win was a blessing."

The hero for the Gryphons in the decisive fourth quarter was Alexa Moore. She ignited the run with a three-pointer in the first minute to bring the deficit to one. Then she hit the go-ahead three with three minutes left, good for the first lead for Rocky Mount in the second half.

At one point, the Gryphons had pushed the lead to five late, but the Rams scored four straight points to make it a one-point game with 1:26 left. That’s when Moore’s third and most important three-point shot came, the defacto game-winning score to push the lead back to four.

“Those were absolutely necessary considering the way we were rebounding. We allowed too many second chances,” Gainey said. “She was patient and she got the shot she wanted, where we wanted and she was able to knock them down.”

Moore finished with 10 points, but before she took over in the fourth, Jada Morris did most of the heavy lifting, finishing with a game-high 16 points on 8 of 11 shooting.

“We have an extremely long way to go, but we’ve made some strides,” Gainey said. “We’ll take a win when we can.”

Boys: Rocky Mount 67, Franklinton 34

In hindsight, the 11-0 run for Rocky Mount to begin its game Friday against Franklinton was all that was needed to know how the rest of the game went.

The Gryphons (12-2, 2-0 Big East), behind a frenetic defense and a bevy of layups in the first three minutes, jumped out to that double-digit lead, led 29-4 at the end of the first quarter, and cruised to a 67-34 win that saw 12 different players score.

It was Rocky Mount’s first game since Jan. 12, when they beat Wilson Fike to begin Big East play.

“Exactly what I like to see, pushing the tempo, getting those guys to commit turnovers, that’s what we like,” coach Michael Gainey said. “We’ve been out for two weeks. We’ve been practicing, doing what we need to do, so I’m not upset at all with how we played. Sometimes we deserve games like this where we can work on different things.”

Tavaughn Parker led the Gryphons with nine points, but with the game out of hand early, the scoring was spread out. Damian Moore, Rodney Alston and Shyheim Battle all added eight,

Javeon Jones had six and eight other players combined for the rest of the points.

“We had the mindset that we could beat them, so we just had to come out and play our hardest,” said Jamar Ellis, who scored three points in limited minutes. “First group’s supposed to set the tone for the second group. When we come out on the court, we have to run the score up then put the second group in to keep it up.”

There was virtually no drop off when Gainey did switch units, as the Rams were never able to make a game of it. Jones’s floater at the buzzer to end the first quarter made the lead 25, and the Gryphons steadily added to that total with a mix of bench players and starters.

“They work hard, too. All these kids -- they ran all these sprints, run all these drills, they want to play as well,” Gainey said. “The first group, they didn’t mind. I said, ‘You don’t mind if they finish out the game?’ They said, ‘No coach.’ That’s what I like to hear. Back in the day, they would pout. But these guys understand, they let the other guys have some fun, too.”

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