In this game, there was no such thing as a role player.
With both Nash Central and Rocky Mount High missing their best players, Thursday’s contest came down to which team was deeper.
That was answered by Nash Central’s reserves, who built a big lead in the first half and survived Rocky Mount’s late run, winning, 67-53 at Nash Central High School.
“Including (Thursday), the last four games our girls have really stepped up,” Nash Central coach Terri Cash said.
Missing star player Timyra Staton, Nash Central (11-5, 4-3 Big East Conference) has muscled its way into a tie for second place in the conference.
The Bulldogs’ scoring came from everywhere against Rocky Mount (12-7, 4-3), which has lost three consecutive conference games after starting 4-0 in the Big East.
There was Brittani Strickland, playing the bulk of Staton’s minutes, who dropped in 11 points. There was defensive specialist Jalynn Westry, whose eight second-half points and 11 total points were crucial.
And there was Ni’Ya Styles, who commanded the floor, consistently found open teammates and scored 18 points.
“I wasn’t expecting to have a lot of shots, I just expected to get my teammates the ball,” Styles said. “We played good defense and offense, and we pushed hard. We got the win, and I’m glad.”
Nash Central beat Rocky Mount for the first time since 2010 with four players who started the season playing junior varsity.
One of those players, Kiana Thomas, scored eight points using an effective mid-range jump shot.
“That was an added bonus,” Cash said. “She has a soft touch. She shoots the ball very, very well.”
Carmen Richardson scored 18 points to lead Rocky Mount, which played in its first full game without J’Kyra Brown, who injured her knee Tuesday against Wilson Hunt.
Rocky Mount coach Pam Gainey said Brown’s knee – the same one in which she tore her ACL two seasons ago – didn’t show any signs of swelling, which left the Gryphons hopeful that they would have her on the court before the season concludes.
Without her though, the Bulldogs were able to outscore Rocky Mount, 16-2, in the second quarter, which was the final margin in the game.
The Gryphons came back, cutting the lead to six in the fourth quarter before Nash Central went on a 10-2 run to put away the contest.
Gainey said Rocky Mount is having problems in areas that have nothing to do with Brown’s presence.
“You’ve got a job to do. Either you do it or you don’t,” Gainey said. “It’s just that simple. Either you close out or you don’t. Either you cut the cutter or you don’t. Consistency is a work in progress.”
Rocky Mount High 73, Nash Central 53
Four Gryphons scored in double figures to help Rocky Mount High remain tied for first place in the Big East Conference with a fairly painless victory against Nash Central.
Rocky Mount (17-2, 6-1) took a 10-point lead midway through the second quarter and led by double digits the rest of the way.
Dante Battle scored 18 points to lead the Gryphons in their third victory against Nash Central (10-6, 4-3) this season.
The Gryphons will clinch a first-round bye in the Big East Tournament with a victory tonight against Wilson Fike.
Cole Smith led Nash Central with 13 points.
Nash Central 67
Rocky Mount High 53
RMH 12 2 15 24 – 53
NC 17 16 13 21 – 67
RMH: Carmen Richardson (18 points); Takeyra Thomas (15 points); Kelsey Daniels (8 points); Chekelvia Yarrell (4 points); Destini Parker, Natayla Cannie (3 points); Kyler Daniels (2 points).
NC: Ni’Ya Styles (18 points); Brittani Strickland, Jalynn Westry (11 points); Marquesha Washington (9 points); Deztanie Hill, Kiana Thomas (8 points); Rebecca Speight (2 points).
Rocky Mount High 73
Nash Central 53
RMH 21 16 20 16 – 73
NC 12 12 13 16 – 53
RMH: Dante Battle (18 points); Broderick Caudle (14 points); Mason Hines (13 points); M.J. Gainey (10 points); Immanuel King (8 points); Jaquell Bryant (4 points); Thomas Cooper, J.T. Smith, Austin Warner (2 points).
NC: Cole Smith (13 points); Jaquan Wilkins (11 points); Wendell Hunter (10 points); Nathaniel Pittman (7 points); Daniel Pittman (6 points); L.J. Porcher (3 points); Tyler Hale (2 points); Chris Alton (1 point).
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or firstname.lastname@example.org