Of all the nights for Rocky Mount High, the defending NCHSAA 3-A state champions, to come out with a lack of focus, Friday was not the time.
If there was ever a quarter for the Gryphons’ best shooter, M.J. Gainey, to go cold from behind the 3-point arc, the third quarter against Wilson Hunt was not it.
The Gryphons lost focus, Gainey lost his touch from long range and Rocky Mount High lost to Wilson Hunt, 69-64, falling behind in the race for the Big East Conference championship.
It’s not something Rocky Mount wanted but maybe something it needed.
“It brings us back to Earth,” point guard Mason Hines said. “It makes us a lot more humble. It lets us know that if we don’t work our hardest day-in and day-out, that we might lose close games like this.”
Rocky Mount (12-2, 1-1) hadn’t lost a conference home game since Jan. 14, 2011 – a two-point loss to Wilson Hunt – and went undefeated last season in the Big East Conference. The Gryphons made the Warriors work for every basket and scored easily in the first half.
Then, Wilson Hunt stopped giving the Gryphons points.
As shots from Gainey and Michael Hines clanged off every portion of the rim and even spun out of the basket on occasion, Wilson Hunt was able to put stress on the Gryphons’ interior offense and limit easy buckets.
An eight-point halftime lead was erased just a few minutes into the third quarter, and by the time the clock was reset for the fourth quarter, Rocky Mount was down by eight points.
“The balance of the whole game was off,” coach Mike Gainey said.
In a pivotal third quarter, while Rocky Mount missed everything from behind the 3-point line, Wilson Hunt knocked down three in a row to take the lead for good.
“It stops our will,” said center Dante Battle, who finished with a game-high 18 points. “We’ll get that feeling that if they are making all their 3s and we are down, we aren’t going to be able to come back.”
Mike Gainey wasn’t his jovial self as the clock wound down. Though he was frustrated with his team’s play, Gainey knows that the loss doesn’t end his team’s season.
“It ain’t over,” Gainey said. “It just gets these guys refocused.”
Rocky Mount High 67 Wilson Hunt 44
The Gryphons finished off their victory against the Warriors with 10 unanswered points that were purely cosmetic.
The substance in the run and the Gryphons’ second Big East Conference victory in as many games came from how the points and the win were achieved.
It wasn’t just Rocky Mount High forward J’Kyra Brown, an ECU signee, and everybody else.
It was everybody.
“Everybody had to have the mind set that everybody has to play their role,” Brown said.
Brown finished with a game-high 28 points, but the Gryphons (10-4, 2-0) routinely put together offense without their star player.
Wilson Hunt 69
Rocky Mount High 64
WH 18 13 20 18 – 69
RMH 20 19 8 17 – 64
WH: Justin Jefferson (17 points); Daniel Westbrook (17 points); Isaiah White (14 points); Keenon Tabron (9 points); Travon Davis (6 points); Javis Neal-hill (3 points); Dwanta Sutton (2 points); Dexter Wright (1 point).
RMH: Dante Battle (18 points); Mason Hines (13 points); Broderick Caudle (13 points); Michael Hines (6 points); Jaquell Bryant (6 points); Immanuel King (5 points); MJ Gainey (3 points).
Rocky Mount High 67
Wilson Hunt 44
WH 6 13 10 15 – 44
RMH 22 15 14 16 – 67
WH: Danisha White (11 points); Kiana Ballard (11 points); Dani Harris (7 points); Alexus Williams (6 points); Alexis Taylor (3 points); Kayla Batts (3 points); Destinee Hinnant (3 points).
RMH: J’Kyra Brown (28 points); Carmen Richardson (16 points); Kelsey Daniels (9 points); Sakeya Battle (6 points); Takeyra Thomas (4 points); Destini Parker (4 points).