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Northern Nash extends lead in Big East Conference with win over Gryphons

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Northern Nash’s Sencere Battle, left, hits Rocky Mount High’s Tybiaus Harrison hand as he shoots the ball Tuesday during Northern Nash’s home game against Rocky Mount High.

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By PATRICK MASON
Sports Writer

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Rocky Mount High boys’ basketball team had hoped to use Tuesday’s rivalry game against Northern Nash as a launching pad for the final stretch of the regular season.

Instead, the Knights used a strong fourth quarter to put away the pesky Gryphons for a 70-60 win in front of a full crowd.

“We said something tonight about shocking the world,” said RMH assistant coach Keith Barnes, who is still filling in for Michael Gainey, who’s on medical leave. “But we’re going to try to shock the world sooner or later.”

The Knights (17-1, 5-0) opened up a two-game lead in the 3-A Big East Conference with the victory and won their 17th consecutive game in the process. Every other team in the conference has at least two losses, with Wilson Fike losing to Wilson Hunt in their own rivalry meeting on Tuesday.

Northern Nash held a 21-17 lead at the end of the first quarter, though a second quarter marred by turnovers allowed RMH (11-5, 1-3) to tie the score at 31-31 by halftime.

Victor Ward led the Gryphons with a season-high in scoring with 19, while Tybiaus Harrison was next with 12 points. Keeshawn Silver added 11. RMH was able to work the ball around for a favorable shot, though second-chance opportunities were slim as the Knights’ up-tempo style pushed the ball upcourt.

“We got shots to go up,” Ward said, “but we were only getting one attempt. Boxing out and trying to get rebounds, we got to be better. Second chances killed us tonight, even though our defense was strong though.”

Northern Nash lost 6-foot-4 forward Tarod Brown with 5:49 to go in the third quarter with a left ankle injury, but that didn’t stop the Knights from scoring inside. Darquez Flowers, who scored 16 points, poured in 12 in the second half, including a stretch of six consecutive points.

Flowers is recovering from a broken hand, and is beginning to round into form. His latest effort kept the Knights on track in a game-shifting third quarter.

“Because he’s been hurt for the past 16 games, we’re still trying to figure out what we’re going to do,” Knights coach Henry Drake said. “It’s almost like starting all over again. We noticed last week that he’s close to 100 percent, and we’re going to need him so it’s one of those things where you just ride it for a little bit and make adjustments.”

Elsewhere for the Knights, guard Sam Page poured in a game-high 21 points. Page stretches the floor for the Knights with his 3-point shooting, and opened the game with two makes. He didn’t hit another 3 until his final shot of the night fell with less than a minute to play.

His 3 pushed the Northern Nash lead to 65-58.

Though Page went more than 25 minutes between 3-pointers, his work elsewhere on the floor steadied his team. Page crashed the lane for a series of putbacks in the fourth quarter, and also hit a couple jumpers in the middle quarters.

“The 3s that Sam took were good 3s,” Drake said. “We just keep telling Sam to shoot the ball, and we trust these guys to keep shooting it, and if they miss then we ask them to make it up on defense and other places and that’s what he did tonight.

“Sam always does an awesome job of attacking the basket. He knows that once he makes one or two (3s) they have to respect that, and because he’s fast he can put it on the floor.

RMH continues Big East play with a road game at Franklinton on Friday, while Northern Nash travels to Hunt.

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