There are some forgettable games on the schedule in December as teams fine-tune themselves for conference play, but Tuesday’s contest for Nash Central will not be counted among those.
After the final buzzer sounded, Bulldogs senior point guard Ni’ya Styles ran toward coach Terri Cash, gave her a bear hug and spun her around in excitement.
Nash Central’s 75-73 victory against East Wake was huge for the Bulldogs, because they know how far they have come, and if they can continue to play like they did Tuesday, they can go a long way.
“We have six seniors, and four years ago, we were 5-17,” Cash said. “Each year, we have gotten a little better.”
Nash Central certainly has its progress on display. Styles, who was the starting point guard on that 5-17 squad, has matured into one of the area’s better players. She scored a career-high 32 points in helping the Bulldogs hand East Wake (6-1) its first loss of the season.
Styles played with style and flair.
She kept East Wake defenders on their heels all evening, finishing with jump shots, pull-ups and drives to the basket.
Her 20-point first half kept Nash Central in the game, and her teammates helped do the rest.
Brittani Strickland (15 points) sent the contest into overtime with a tough basket in the paint with three seconds remaining in regulation after Nash Central wasted a seven-point lead with 3:30 minutes remaining in the game.
The Bulldogs overcame a 34-point performance from East Wake center Angel Rizur, who scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, including 13 in a row at one junction.
In the past, that might have been enough to sink the Bulldogs, but Cash said Styles and Deztanie Hill have stepped up to become leaders of the team, and that guidance has helped push the team to greater heights.
It was only a year ago that East Wake defeated Nash Central by a 30-point margin.
Tuesday night, Styles and her teammates were all smiles in picking up their biggest victory of the young season.
And if Styles has to score and smile her way through 30-plus minutes of basketball, she is willing to do so.
“I have to bring it and be there for my team,” Styles said. “That’s what I’m doing, and I’m doing it on a consistent basis. That is what I’m here for.”
East Wake 54, Nash Central 48
There are plenty of issues for Nash Central to work through before Big East play begins next month.
The Bulldogs still are in the process of valuing the basketball, figuring out their scoring, and most importantly, finding ways to win.
Even with those deficiancies, Nash Central had a chance late in Tuesday night’s game but ultimately came up short.
“It’s a matter of us figuring out things as we go,” Bulldogs coach Renny Taylor said.
Nash Central trailed only by a point with 2:30 minutes to play, but it only scored on a free-throw down the stretch.
Jordan Conyers scored 20 points to pace the Bulldogs in the loss.
Nash Central (1-4) competed on the defensive end, but Taylor said the team is relying too much on its perimeter game.
“We have to learn what is a good shot and what is a bad shot,” Taylor said. “We have to get to the basket.”
Jessie H. Nunery can be reached at 407-9959 or firstname.lastname@example.org