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Rocky Mount puts away Southern Nash in Big East tie-breaker

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Rocky Mount High's Jamar Ellis, left, shoots as Southern Nash's Jalen Lucas defends Friday during the game at Northern Nash High School. Lucas blocked the shot on this play.

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By SAMUEL EVERS
Sports Writer

Friday, February 16, 2018

It took about 21 minutes of action, but finally, a game broke out.

Both playing for the second time in two nights at a neutral site in a game that seemed unlikely a week ago, Southern Nash and Rocky Mount, in a tie-breaker contest at Northern Nash for second place in the Big East, had tired legs to start.

Turnovers abounded in the first half, and points were few; it was just 19-19 going into the break.

“I watched Victor Jones try to run down the court. He was just chugging,” Rocky Mount coach Michael Gainey said. “Right then we went back to a zone and hoped they wouldn’t connect.”

At the three-minute mark of the third period, 21 minutes into the game, things finally picked up from a 23-point tie. The igniter was the Gryphons’ Rodney Alston who scored 15 third quarter points, giving Rocky Mount the eventual push it needed for a 52-46 victory.

With the win, the Gryphons (18-5, 8-3) ended a three-game losing streak, while the Firebirds (14-10, 7-4) had their three-game winning streak snapped. When the pairings come out on Saturday, the Gryphons will be the second seed in conference and Southern Nash the third.

“A game we shouldn’t have been playing,” Gainey said. “But a win is a win no matter how we get it.”

Alston, who didn’t play in his team’s 64-62 loss on Tuesday to Southern Nash, led all scorers with 25 on 9 of 17 shooting, including four 3-pointers, helping an offense that seemed a little tired at times.

“That’s our No. 1,” said Javeon Jones, who finished with 13 points of his own. “We feed off him. We feed off Rodney.”

Southern Nash led a lethargic first quarter by five points, 11-6, but couldn’t extend the lead to a more significant number. The largest deficit for them was nine points at the start of the fourth when Alston got a shooter’s bounce on a 3-pointer.

They found a spark down the stretch of the fourth, and pulled within two points with 1:19 left in the game when Tyler Wilson, who scored 11, hit a 3-pointer. The score stayed there for about a minute longer, when Wilson missed a running 3-pointer with 20 seconds left that could have given the Firebirds the lead.

The Gryphons got the rebound, and hit their next four free throws to make it a six-point final difference.

“Both teams played last night. We got home at 11 o’clock. We didn’t play well,” Southern Nash coach Robbie Kennedy said. “We make a couple of shots in a couple of situations. Alston got hot for them. Even with all the turnovers, we had the ball late in a one possession game. That kind of night.”

Before last week’s loss to Northern Nash, Rocky Mount was 7-0 in conference and the Firebirds were 4-3. Southern Nash won out and the Gryphons lost out, placing Kennedy’s team into what looked like a two-team conference race.

“We wanted to win, we wanted that No. 2. All it means is they get a two-seed for the playoffs. We still finished tied for second, 7-3 in conference,” Kennedy said. “I don’t think it will change our seeding too much. Just have to regroup and get ready for Tuesday.”

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