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Gryphons girls settling in, Northern Nash boys eye another undefeated Big East

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Rocky Mount High's Mya Pittman, right, looks to pass as Northern Nash's A'Nya Bobbitt, Hannah Evans and Kanasia Arrington, from left, defend on Friday at Rocky Mount High School.

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By PATRICK MASON
Sports Writer

Friday, February 8, 2019

Over the many years spent coaching the Rocky Mount High girls’ basketball team, Pam Gainey is a well-seasoned veteran when it comes to the rivalry with Northern Nash. Each year presents a new problem, mostly on the preparation side.

And since the start of February, the Gryphons have been surging. That continued Friday night when RMH used a Mya Pittman layup at the buzzer to sink the visiting Knights in a well-attended Big East Conference game.

“It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it tests you mentally and for young kids that’s a great experience,” Gainey said of the atmosphere. “It’s good for the kids to be able to experience this. Even if they don’t go on to play at the next level, to play in an atmosphere like this is exciting.”

The second half brought out the noise and adrenaline as RMH (16-6, 5-4) battled back from a 38-37 halftime deficit. And Mya Pittman was the engine leading the comeback. Pittman matched Northern Nash’s scoring output in the third quarter and gave the Gryphons a small lead heading into the final quarter.

Pittman scored 12 of her game-high 18 points in the third quarter. The senior made six baskets, all on drives to the rim. She was the answer to the Knights’ Hannah Evans, who made a trio of 3-pointers in the second half.

RMH outscored Northern Nash 18-12 in the third quarter, and the six-point swing was just enough to hold off a strong fourth quarter by the Knights (9-11, 5-4).

Evans made a 3 with under 3 minutes to play to push the Northern Nash lead to 36-33. Much of the crowd was standing by now, and erupted when RMH’s Alexis Moore two free throws, followed by Pittman swooping in for a a steal and going the other way for a layup and a 37-36 lead with 1:14 left.

Moore, a junior, and Pittman have played in plenty of these rivalry games, and stayed cool until the end.

“I could see the kids and they all respond differently,” Gainey said. “I’ve had years where the game before Northern we would stink it up and can’t get ourselves together. It took me a few years to realize that that game is always tough because it’s hard to get the kids to separate that from the upcoming one.It’s a learning experience to know what’s needed mentally to play well in both games.”

The Knights top defender and point guard Kylar Wiggins, who scored nine points, fouled out with 41.3 seconds to play, and wasn’t on the floor when Pittman ran the length of the floor and sank the the game-winning shot.

With the win, RMH pulled even with the Knights in the conference standings. The Gryphons are playing well and pushed their current winning streak to three games. It’s the first winning streak for the Gryphons since they ran off 10 consecutive wins from Dec. 14 to Jan. 10.

For the Knights, it was their third consecutive loss and was it just the fourth time since Dec. 20 that the defensive-minded team has allowed at least 40 points.

Boys

Northern Nash 65

Rocky Mount High 60

The Northern Nash boys’ basketball team is eyeing a three-peat.

After Friday’s road win over Rocky Mount High, the Knights (21-1, 9-0) are just one Big East Conference win away from a third consecutive undefeated conference season. The Knights have now won 21 games in a row, with their lone loss coming on the road in the season opener.

Northern Nash will play Wilson Hunt on Feb. 15 to close the regular season.

On Friday, the Knights were pushed by a hot-shooting Gryphons squad that saw nine players score at least two points. Victor Ward scored a game-high 17 points for the Gryphons, with Corey Cole (11) and Zataeveun Knight (10) also scored in double figures.

RMH (12-9, 2-7) trailed 38-37 at halftime, then evened the score at 50-50 heading into the fourth quarter.

Northern Nash’s Joseph Cherry-Blue closed out the win at the foul line, making the front end of a one-and-one to go up by four points, then making the second foul shot to push the lead to 65-60 with less than 15 seconds to play.

The Gryphons couldn’t get a shot at the other end, and the Knights dribbled out the clock for the win. Cherry-Blue made all eight of his free throws and finished with 15 points. Teammate Darquez Flowers scored a team-high 16, while Davontae Wiggins added 10 points.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work to do that,” Cherry-Blue said of his perfect night from the foul line. “I’ve been working every morning since the season started at 6 o’clock. I’ve improved for sure. I wasn’t shooting well last year.”

The Knights made six 3-pointers in the game, including four from four different players in the first quarter.

The Gryphons final game of the regular season is on Tuesday against Franklinton at home.

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