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Northern Nash boys score 95 in win, girls fall to Hunt

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Northern Nash’s Darquez Flowers, center, attempts to make a shot while Hunt’s Zion May, left, and Hunt’s Tiquez Taylor try to block him Friday at Northern Nash High School.

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By PATRICK MASON
Sports Writer

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Playing just its second game since Dec. 29, the Northern Nash boys’ basketball team looked like a team that is tired of practice.

“The guys wanted to play tonight,” Knights coach Henry Drake said, “and you could see it. The energy they had, it set the tone.”

The host Knights scored at least 21 points in every quarter en route to a 95-76 dismantling of Big East Conference opponent Wilson Hunt on Friday.

Eleven different players scored points for Northern Nash (15-1, 2-0), which is off to a perfect start in conference play after enjoying a successful nonconference schedule. Several starters got into foul trouble early, which led to Drake dipping into his bench early in the game.

There was no drop-off between reserves and starters, keeping the pressure on a Hunt (4-10, 0-2) team that didn’t get any time to rest against a deep Knights roster. Backup point guard DaShawn Liggins, who Drake counts on to provide energy on defense, scored in double figures with the help of a first-quarter 3-pointer. Fellow reserves Henry Richardson and Za’Shon Jenkins each added eight off the bench.

By the end of the first quarter, Northern Nash had poured in 26 points, then added 21 more in the second quarter to take a 47-35 lead into halftime.

“The bench did a tremendous job,” Drake said. “Our bench did just a wonderful job. We put them in and they responded. That’s the main reason we were able to score 95 points. It carried over from our practices. We had three great practices where they got after each other.”

While the Knights thrived with the aid of their deep roster, starter Darquez Flowers had one of his better games of the season and has emerged as a real scoring threat on the area’s top team. Flowers scored a game-high 22 points in Friday’s win and displayed a wide range of offensive skills.

Flowers started on last season’s Knights team that made a deep run to playoffs. Then, he was a piece to the puzzle, Now, the junior might be the central piece. Flowers has developed a mid-range jumper that he went to often, and even hit a pair of 3s in the first quarter.

“Coach Drake has been really pushing us in practice,” Flowers said. “He’s giving us chances to show ourselves, and I wanted to prove that I can be a leader on this team.”

During a stretch in the second half where the Knights began to open up their lead, Flowers began a fastbreak that involved the ball touching three players with crisp passes that would make any fan of basketball fundamentals mile.

Flowers pulled down a rebound then rifled a pass upcourt to find Liggins, who threaded a pass through a pair of Warriors players to a cutting Undray Cherry who finished with a layup off the glass.

Plays like that have his coach thinking that Flowers’ emergence has him in great company.

“He has been transforming into one of the best players in our conference,” Drake said. “We knew he had the skill, and now he’s playing how he’s supposed to play. His game is so great to watch when he is getting everything he can.

“He makes it look so effortless. He’s so unselfish, gives the ball up anytime it’s needed. We’re excited the way he’s coming along and it’s happening at a good time, too.”

The Knights are on the road for the next three games, beginning with Tuesday’s tip at Southern Nash.

Girls

Wilson Hunt 47

Northern Nash 44

Northern Nash couldn’t hang on to a late lead in a Big East Conference game against visiting Wilson Hunt on Friday.

The Knights (9-3, 1-1) came out in a zone that Hunt was able to shoot over, leading to a fast start. But that early Warriors lead wasn’t sustainable when Northern Nash moved to a man-to-man defense. The new defensive look dried up Hunt’s open shots, and helped the Knights erase a 28-23 halftime deficit.

Northern Nash stormed out of the break with a strong third quarter that began on an 11-2 run. Northern Nash guard Shamiya Mercer made everything go by scoring 12 of the team’s 14 third-quarter points.

Mercer took advantage of a stout defensive effort as she leaked out after Hunt turnovers to deliver 10 fastbreak points, streaking down the court with each finish drawing louder reactions from the crowd. Her performance helped the Knights take a 37-34 lead into the fourth quarter, a lead they would hold until about four minutes remained.

“We did some things wrong down the stretch and made some inexperienced mistakes,” Knights coach Grover Battle said. “We played well, but we need to clean some things up.”

Hunt (9-5, 2-0) tied the score at 41-41 with just under four minutes to play, then held Northern Nash scoreless for the next three minutes. Hunt’s size under the basket proved to be the difference as the Warriors attacked the lane in the waning minutes.

The Knights added a speed element to their game as guard Markela Avent was an important cog in pushing the pace. Avent displayed her crafty passing skills often when under the basket, assisting teammate Kristian Johnson on a number of layups.

The up-tempo style is how the guard-heavy Knights would like to play. And with a cluster of games on the horizon, Northern Nash is hoping to put everything together while trying to be a tough team to defend.

“We have been trying to push the ball to put pressure on the opposing guards,” Avent said. “It worked just how we practiced it. At home, because the weather has been bad, we took it on ourselves to run a bunch and stay in shape to play this tempo.”

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