J’Kyra Brown scored 13 of her 33 points in the fourth quarter as Rocky Mount High maintained a comfortable lead for most of the game, beating Southern Nash, 54-40, on Friday at Rocky Mount High School.
The Gryphons (12-4, 4-0 Big East Conference) turned over the ball 26 times, yet created enough offense thanks to Brown and a steady stream of fast breaks.
The Ladybirds (4-11, 0-4) shot seven percent in the first half.
Southern Nash made more field goals (four) in the first three minutes of the second half than it had in the first half (two). The run cut the Gryphons’ lead to five, but Brown scored four straight points and the Ladybirds never came closer.
Khadijah Manning led the Ladybirds with 17 points.
Rocky Mount High 74, Southern Nash 38
Southern Nash does not have a single player taller than 6-foot-2; Rocky Mount High has seven, including Dante Battle, a likely Division I college player.
The Firebirds understood they would be at a size disadvantage and have grown used to saying that.
Southern Nash expected Battle to be good – and he was, scoring 20 points – but they did not expect to fall apart on offense. The Firebirds turned over the ball 36 times and lost to Rocky Mount, 74-38, on Friday.
“Our plan was to collapse on Battle, but he’s a good player, and we didn’t have an answer for him,” Southern Nash coach Robbie Kennedy said. “But he’s 60 pounds bigger than anyone we have, and I can live with that. What I can’t live with is turning the ball over 36 times and having our seniors play the way they did.”
The Firebirds’ (2-13, 1-3) five seniors accounted for 27 of the throwaways, while the Gryphons (14-2, 3-1) made good use of them.
Rocky Mount was ahead by 20 points early in the second quarter as Southern Nash couldn’t solve the Gryphons’ zone trap, nor could it keep up with Rocky Mount constantly pushing the tempo.
“We jumped on them a little bit by pushing the tempo a little bit,” Rocky Mount coach Mike Gainey said. “We got a little lackadaisical at times, but we’re trying to create that movement and do it consistently.”
In addition to Battle’s 20 points, M.J. Gainey added 13 and Michael Hines had 10.
Chi-Ali Bunn scored 11 points to lead Southern Nash but was the only Firebird in double figures.
While the Gryphons had a size advantage, it was their guards’ defense that afforded them a big lead.
“That speed is really going to help us a lot,” M.J. Gainey said. “When we play at our speed, it’s too fast for most teams.”
Kennedy said for Southern Nash to start winning games, the foundation must be set by its oldest players.
“We expect the freshmen to be inconsistent because they’re freshmen,” Kennedy said. “We need more from our seniors. We have to be more consistent.”
Rocky Mount High 54
Southern Nash 40
SN 5 3 17 15 – 40
RMH 8 11 16 19 – 54
SN: Khadijah Manning (17 points); Tyreka Nicholson (11 points); Destiny Burgess (8 points); Kadijah Kale (4 points).
RMH: J’Kyra Brown (33 points); Carmen Richardson, Kelsey Daniels (5 points); Takeyra Thomas, Destini Parker (4 points); Sakeya Battle (2 points); Kyler Daniels (1 point).
Rocky Mount High 74
Southern Nash 38
SN 6 13 5 14 – 38
RMH 20 19 20 17 – 74
SN: Chi-Ali Bunn (11 points); Rashid Campbell (8 points); Marques Wright, Tahj Deans (6 points); Desmon Jackson (3 points); Jared Johnson, Deon Lavender (2 points).
RMH: Dante Battle (20 points); M.J. Gainey (13 points); Michael Hines (10 points); Immanuel King, Broderick Caudle (6 points); Kenaz Cooper, Mason Hines, Jaquell Bryant (4 points); J.T. Smith (3 points); Tyler Harmanson, Austin Warner (2 points).
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz@ rmtelegram.com