The 2011-2012 Northern Nash team will be remembered as a great team with one issue: It just couldn’t beat Rocky Mount High.
This time, the Knights believe it’s their year, and no conference rival – including and especially the Gryphons – is going to take the Big East Conference crown away from them.
Northern Nash rolled in a battle of 4-0 teams, jumping on Rocky Mount and never letting the Gryphons recover, staying atop the conference with a 60-47 victory Tuesday at Northern Nash High School.
“It was definitely a point we wanted to make,” Northern Nash forward Camille Branch said. “People have been talking about this and that, but this game should send a message to everybody.”
Northern Nash (15-0, 5-0 Big East) used a 15-0 run at the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second quarter to take a 30-12 lead, and it never led by fewer than 12 points the remainder of the game.
Branch scored 15 points to lead the Knights, who kept the Gryphons (12-5, 4-1) from establishing much of anything on the offensive end. J’Kyra Brown scored 27 points and Carmen Richardson added 12, but the rest of the Gryphons finished with eight total.
“We just got whooped (Tuesday), I hate to say it,” Rocky Mount coach Pam Gainey said. “We got beat in every aspect of the game. (Northern Nash) executed, they defended, they played with intensity. We didn’t do any of those things.”
Northern Nash was able to obtain just about any shot it wanted throughout the course of the game. The Knights finished shooting 53 percent from the field, a by-product of their ability to turn many possessions into quality shots.
The Knights hit eight of their first 12 shots and led by nine after one quarter.
In the second quarter, Northern Nash made as many field goals (six) as the Gryphons attempted. The Knights scored 12 points off Rocky Mount turnovers in the first half and went into the break with a 36-18 lead.
“I thought even when they were trapping, and even though we didn’t play well, we were able to get some easy baskets,” Northern Nash coach Grover Battle said.
It was the opposite story on the other end. Brown earned seven points from the free throw line and hardly had any room to create offense.
Besides Richardson, the rest of the Gryphons did little to help her cause.
After three quarters, the rest of the team had a combined two points.
Branch said the Knights are learning how to play big games.
“Before, we always got over-psyched and it cost us,” she said. “(Tuesday) we weren’t too anxious. We played Rocky Mount like any other team.”
Gainey said the Gryphons will be forced to re-evaluate because the way they played Tuesday is not sustainable.
“I hate to say this because it sounds so elementary, but if you’re out on the court, and you’re guarding somebody, and you can’t see the ball, what are you doing?” Gainey said. “It’s just frustrating. Really frustrating.”
Rocky Mount High 68 Northern Nash 57
Rocky Mount ended the game on a 14-3 run to escape a depleted Northern Nash squad and keep hold of second place in the Big East.
M.J. Gainey scored 11 of his 13 points in the final quarter to propel Rocky Mount, which was tied at 54 with a little more than four minutes remaining.
“It was just the will to win,” Rocky Mount coach Mike Gainey said of his team’s surge to end the game. “It just goes to show you in rivalry games, records go out the door. When you play your rival, you have to want it more.”
Rocky Mount (15-2, 4-1) couldn’t seem to pull away from Northern Nash (6-9, 2-3) even though the Knights were missing two regulars because of a disciplinary issue and guard Donte McNeil had a stomach virus.
Isaiah Alston scored 21 points as Northern Nash never shied away from the Gryphons, only letting the game slip away in the final four minutes.
“We had so much adversity this past week,” Northern Nash coach Rick Ruffin said. “So many kids stepped up so big for us (Tuesday).”
Northern Nash 60
Rocky Mount High 47
RMH 12 6 15 14 – 47
NN 21 15 9 15 – 60
RMH: J’Kyra Brown (27 points); Carmen Richardson (12 points); Sekeya Battle (6 points); Takeyra Thomas, Kelsey Daniels (1 point).
NN: Camille Branch (15 points); Quinesha Lynch (13 points); Alexus Hill (9 points); Jordan Oldham,
Kadijrah Richardson (8 points); Deja Lewis (4 points); Shakyia Mercer (3 points).
Rocky Mount High 68
Northern Nash 57
RMH 19 15 16 18 – 68
NN 17 17 14 9 – 57
RMH: M.J. Gainey (13 points); Dante Battle (12 points); Michael Hines (9 points); Mason Hines (8 points); Immanuel King (7 points); Kenaz Cooper, Broderick Caudle (6 points); Austin Warner (4 points); Jaquell Bryant (3 points).
NN: Isaiah Alston (21 points); Jeremy Freeman, Donte McNeil (8 points); Tyler Jones, Tyler Brantley (5 points); D.J. Prunty (4 points); Isacc Dupree, Jaquez Avent (2 points).
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or firstname.lastname@example.org