A look at prep basketball landscape after holiday tournaments
By PATRICK MASON
Wednesday, January 2, 2019
Welcome to 2019, where the prep football season is eight months away and the winter sports season shifts into mid-season form.
And with the flipping of the calendar, routines are once again taking shape, holiday basketball tournaments are finished, and teams prepare to dig in for the bulk of the conference schedules.
The past couple weeks have been interesting across the prep basketball scene as several teams teams won at least one tournament championship over the break, while even more used the blast of consecutive games and tight turnarounds to make adjustments and tweaks during live game situations.
Here’s what we learned from the tail end of 2018, as well as a look at what to expect moving forward.
First, the Northern Nash boys’ team is once again a wrecking ball. The Knights (11-1) have won 11 consecutive games, including a dominant holiday tournament stretch where they won two tournament titles.
Northern Nash had its way with opponents during the Nash County Christmas tournament, winning every game by at least seven points on its way to a championship over host Rocky Mount High. The Knights then won a trio of games at the Bunn Christmas tournament, including a tight 50-45 win over East Wake in the championship game.
Joseph Cherry-Blue is the top scorer for the Knights, averaging 16.7 points per game, while point guard Sam Page is stretching the floor by shooting 43 percent from 3-point rage. Page, a senior, has made 22 3s and is averaging just under 12 points per game. A deep roster with different skill-sets makes the Knights a dangerous team.
Remember, Northern Nash had a similar start to the season last year when it had win streaks of 10 and 14 on the way to a No. 2 seed in the 3-A playoffs. But a second-round upset ended its hopes of a title. The Knights open Big East Conference play on Jan. 8 against Wilson Hunt.
Looking ahead, Wilson Fike (9-2) could be the Knights’ toughest in-conference challenge. Fike has three players scoring in double figures, led by junior Moses Parker’s 19 points per game. Northern first plays Fike on Jan. 18 at home.
Meanwhile, Southern Nash emerges from the break with a winning record at 5-4 and is led by Darius Edmundson’s 17 points per game. The Firebirds finished 14-11 last season, but didn’t have a prolific scorer like Edmundson. Southern Nash has the athleticism to hang with just about anybody.
Elsewhere in the Big East, Rocky Mount High is riding a three-game win streak and is coming off a Cleveland Christmas tournament championship over Nash Central. The Gryphons (7-2) have two more nonconference games this week before hosting Franklinton to open the Big East schedule.
Speaking of Nash Central, a 1-7 start was tough, but two wins over the past three games and a berth in the title game of the Cleveland tournament has the Bulldogs back on track. Nash Central will face Rocky Mount High on Thursday, before opening its Eastern Plains Conference schedule on Jan. 11 at home against talented SouthWest Edgecombe.
After a 1-2 start to the season, the Rocky Mount High Gryphons have won seven straight including wins in the championship game of the Nash County Christmas tournament and Cleveland Christmas tournament.
RMH had to get through previously unbeaten SouthWest Edgecombe in the Nash County tournament, and showed discipline in defending a dangerous Cougars offense that can score both under the basket and behind the 3-point arc.
Cougars junior Bailey Davis is averaging 16.4 points per game while shooting 45 percent from deep. SWE will be in the running for the Eastern Plains title, with its toughest roadblock being undefeated Farmville Central.
Northern Nash is in the win column. The team had its share of struggles by opening the season with seven consecutive losses, yet it picked up its first win of the season on Dec. 21 against conference rival Southern Nash.
The Firebirds, at 3-6, are one of two teams in the Big East to allow fewer than 400 points so far this season. Southern Nash saw a variety of teams at the Nash County tournament, and has two more nonconference games before conference play begins.
Nash Central (4-5) has won three of its past five, and is starting to play well after a tough nonconference schedule where its first five games were against teams from the 3-A Big East Conference.