With all the excitement of a season-opener, Nash Central and SouthWest Edgecombe raced onto the court, and around it, for the first eight minutes Tuesday night.
Where the Cougars showed control and tempo, Nash Central didn’t.
Until key reserve guard Wendell Hunter came off the bench. Hunter didn’t so much as provide a spark as a soothing feel to his over-hyped teammates inside Nash Central High School.
Hunter scored all six of his points during a run of 13 unanswered points by the Bulldogs, who went from zealous to comfortable in a 60-40 victory against SouthWest Edgecombe.
“It seemed like we were trying to do too much, guys were trying to do too much,” Nash Central coach Renny Taylor said. “You can do too much but you’ve still got to finish lay-ups and make good passes. I was not happy about that at all.”
Hunter and reserve Tyler Hale came off the bench separately but had the same general effect on Nash Central (1-0).
“As a senior, I have to be a leader,” Hunter said. “It doesn’t matter if I’m starting or coming off the bench, I know I have to be able to contribute to my team or calm them down.”
Even after SouthWest Edgecombe (0-1) ended the Bulldogs’ run, Nash Central’s calm demeanor shined through, authoritatively.
Senior forward Nathaniel Pittman, who had missed three dunks already, finished a one-handed slam.
“It’s the first game, we just wanted to do good and come out with the win,” Pittman said. “I guess we were just nervous.”
From there, SouthWest Edgecombe couldn’t rally. The Cougars showed bright spots at times, running first-year coach Anthony Burns’ offense.
But a lack of proper conditioning – from an extended football season – didn’t help.
“It’s going to take time to learn,” said Burns, who is teaching a new offense and defense.
Nash Central 65, SW Edgecombe 12
Terri Cash could look across the court Tuesday and into the past.
While the Bulldogs – a team made up completely of juniors and seniors – executed plays with precision, SouthWest Edgecombe struggled to keep pace.
The Cougars have just one senior and two juniors on their entire roster. So Cash, who for the past two years had coached a supremely young team, knows exactly how SouthWest Edgecombe coach Sandra Langley feels.
“We only won five games four years ago,” Cash said. “I definitely have been on that side of it, too.”
Timyra Staton scored 20 points, and Krystal Atkinson added 11 points off the bench as every player on the Bulldogs’ roster scored at least two points.
“Coming off the way we ended last year gives the kids a little confidence,” Cash said. “Experience means a lot in this game.”
Nash Central (1-0) made the second round of the playoffs last year and scored at least three times as many points as the Cougars (0-1) in every quarter Tuesday.
“We knew we were young and inexperienced,” Langley said. “We’re trying to work hard and stay with it. A lot of the mistakes were youthful inexperience. ... We knew it was going to be tough early.”
SouthWest Edgecombe, which will play Northern Nash twice and Nash Central once more before conference play, did drop into a man-to-man defense and had more success in the second half.
Nash Central 65
SouthWest Edgecombe 12
SWE 2 2 6 2 – 12
NC 16 19 18 12 – 65
SWE: Lalaysia Jacobs 6; Montana York 3; Sydney Gould 2; Dawson Gould 2.
NC: Timyra Staton 20; Krystal Atkinson 11; Brittani Strickland 6; Ni’Ya Styles 6; Tashonda Brown 4; Alexia Jones; Marquesha Washington; Jalynn Westry 4; Dana Kelly 2; Deztanie Hill 2; Kadeisha Perry 2.
Nash Central 60
SouthWest Edgecombe 40
SWE 14 9 8 9 – 40
NC 12 19 12 17 – 60
SWE: Javien Hinton 19; Anthony Coley 14; Dabarrien West 3;Quay Wooten 2; Jason Jones 2.
NC: Nathaniel Pittman 18; Daniel Pittman 12; L.J. Porcher 7; Jaquan Wilkins 6; Wendell Hunter 6; Tyler Hale 5; Damian Bobbitt 4; Hakeem Taylor 2.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or email@example.com