Shots weren’t falling, lay-ups weren’t being converted and Southern Nash was playing an all-too-familiar style – albeit a bad one.
Just a few days after the Firebirds lost to Nash Central in the regular-season finale, Southern Nash once again drew its county rival in the quarterfinals of the Big East Conference Tournament on Tuesday at Rocky Mount High School.
Three days earlier, Southern Nash went 0-for-10 from the three-point line in the fourth quarter, Nash Central’s lone conference victory.
Tuesday didn’t start any better, but once the Firebirds starting hitting their shots, everything else fell into place.
Southern Nash, which trailed by one at halftime, opened the second half with a strong run and cruised through an uneventful fourth quarter to a 66-42 victory to advance to the semifinals of the conference tournament.
“We can’t give up,” forward Marquise Wright said. “I know we are going to hit shots. If they don’t fall, you just have to keep shooting them. In the second half, we picked it up and you see the results.”
No. 3 Southern Nash (10-13) opened the second half with a 19-4 run and hit more three-pointers (3) during the spurt than it did in the entire first 16 minutes (2).
“When we do that, it makes it easier,” said Wright who had a team-high 16 points and eight rebounds. “We feel good, and we play as a team. The momentum is in our favor, and we just get on a good run. We feel like we can control the momentum in the game.”
Wright added that to beat Rocky Mount in the fourth matchup between the teams, all the Firebirds need to do is play like they did Tuesday.
His coach agreed.
“We’ve just got to play,” Southern Nash coach Robbie Kennedy said. “They really hurt us on the boards. We’ve got to play.
“We’re going to do what we do, and we know what they do. We’ve got to make shots and play with the effort we played with (Tuesday).”
Rocky Mount, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, defeated Southern Nash by 12 and 28 points in the schools’ pair of regular-season meetings.
Wilson Fike 70 Northern Nash 50
In a season filled with turbulence, including the dismissal of the Knights’ leading scorer because of a violation of team rules, Northern Nash’s season came to an end with one more road bump.
After the team’s loss to Wilson Fike, a pair of Northern Nash players started fighting in the locker room with one player having to be restrained and removed by an assistant coach.
Afterward, players exited the locker room sarcastically saying it was a perfect end to the season.
“We’ve had a lot of adversity,” Northern Nash coach Rick Ruffin said of his team, which started the year with seven seniors. “We lost some players early, and we had to regroup before conference. ... We had to change a lot of what we were doing offensively.”
The Knights (7-16) never recovered, winning just one conference game. The victory came against fellow one-win team Nash Central.
On Tuesday night, Northern Nash just wasn’t able to keep up with the Golden Demons (18-6), who will play top-seeded Wilson Hunt in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Thursday.
“It seemed like every time we made a run, they made a run of their own,” Ruffin said. “It (has) just been that kind of season.”
The Knights struggled to contain the Golden Demons’ talented top scorers as Trevon Virgil and MyQuan Gooding scored the first 19 points of the second half for Wilson Fike.
Southern Nash 66
Nash Central 42
NC 7 16 8 11 – 42
SN 8 14 23 21 – 66
NC: Aaron Spivey (15 points); Joshua Mullins (8 points); Daniel Pittman (4 points); Jurwan Mercer Harris (4 points); Jack Williams (3 points); Chris Alston (3 points); Houshun Gaines (2 points); Seddrick Horne (1 point); Wayne Sanders (1 point); Lance Williams (1 point).
SN: Marquise Wright (16 points); Emmanual Merriweather (11 points); Richard Hall (11 points); Tahj Deans (6 points); Leon Oates (6 points); Aaron Newkirk (5 points); Bryan Vines (3 points); Orlando Turner (3 points); Corey Schultz (2 points); Josh Raynor (2 points); Raquan Blount (1 point).
Wilson Fike 70
Northern Nash 50
NN 10 11 15 14 – 50
WF 16 18 11 25 – 70
NN: DJ Prunty (19 points); Isaac Dupree (10 points); Demonte Johnson (9 points); Marcellus Major (4 points); Adam Renner (4 points); Tyler Jones (2 points); Dominique Evans (2 points).
WF: Trevon Virgil (29 points); MyQuan Gooding (22 points); Jeremy Phillips (7 points); Brandon Monk (4 points); Anthony Evans (4 points); T.J. Harris (2 points); Bennie Elliott (2 points).
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org