The outcome was not decided in the second quarter of Northern Nash’s contest against Eastern Alamance on Wednesday night, but the events did shed some light on who the Knights are as a team.
With starters Alexus Hill, CeCe Harrison and Kiana Thomas on the bench with foul trouble, Northern Nash held its early lead and even extended it.
Reserves Jahlia Williams and Kayla Tucker and starting point guard Alexia Hines kept the Knights afloat.
Later, Hill closed the deal in Northern Nash’s 50-40 victory in the second round of the NCHSAA 3-A state playoffs.
The second-seeded Knights (25-1) will play host to Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons at 7 p.m. Friday in the school’s fourth consecutive trip to the sectional finals.
They’ll do so in part because Williams, Tucker and Hines combined for eight points in the quarter to help give Northern Nash its biggest lead of the night (21-6).
“It was my time to show coach (Grover Battle) what I could do and show the team it was in me to help get us to the next level,” Tucker said.
Williams scored six points in the frame, Tucker added a jump shot, and Hines’ activity on the defensive end helped put the Knights at ease while leading scorer Hill sat on the bench with three fouls and Thomas, the team’s top rebounder, watched from the bench with a pair of fouls.
“They came in like they were experienced,” Battle said of the underclassmen-heavy trio. “Our girls showed some type of fortitude in keeping the lead we had while we waited for the other girls to get back into the game.”
Despite the depth shown by the Knights, the evening was not without some uneasy moments.
Northern Nash saw its lead cut to five points in a third quarter where the teams combined for only nine points.
The Knights struggled from the floor and from the free-throw line in the second half.
Northern Nash missed 14 free throws during the contest, leaving a window of doubt that extended into the fourth quarter until Hill scored 10 of her game-high 22 points.
“It’s a skill that you have to perfect,” Hill said of the team’s miscues at the line.
Jaimee Cousin led Eastern Alamance (19-8) with 12 points, nine of which came in the second quarter, but it wasn’t enough to stop a balanced Northern Nash team.
“We stepped up and made plays,” Williams said.
The Big East Conference regular-season and tournament champions are a victory away from their second Eastern Regionals trip in the past four seasons.
Rocky Mount High has kept Northern Nash from Fayetteville the past two seasons, but the Gryphons are not an obstacle for a trip south on I-95 this season.
“We had to step up,” Hines said. “If we don’t, coach is going to fuss and fuss.”
Northern Nash 50
Eastern Alamance 40
EA 2 19 3 16 – 40
NN 13 14 6 17 – 50
EA: Jaimee Cousin (12 points); Keidra Smith (11 points); Breanna Evans (9 points); Deja Dunn (5 points0; Midoria Long (2 points); Kerry Lee (1 point).
NN: Alexus Hill (22 points); Jahlia Williams (8 points); Kiana Thomas (8 points); Susie Sykes (4 points); Alexia Hines (4 points); Kayla Tucker (2 points).
Jessie H. Nunery can be reached at 407-9959 or email@example.com