Carmen Richardson has played many different roles for Rocky Mount High during her four-year career. She has been the wide-eyed freshman counted on to just make an open shot and a primary distributor, not asked to do much more than that.
Last year, she was the sidekick.
This year, she’s the closer.
As Rocky Mount learns how to play in the playoffs with four of its top six players on varsity for the first time, they’ll need Richardson’s experience.
Richardson scored eight of the Gryphons’ final nine points and 12 of her game-high 16 in the fourth quarter, coming through for the No. 12 Gryphons again in a 44-36 victory against Nash Central in the first round of the NCHSAA 3-A state playoffs at Rocky Mount High School.
She knows the playoffs aren’t the same as the regular season.
“It’s very different,” said Richardson, who score her 1,000th career point in the fourth quarter. “We keep trying to tell these girls that it’s one-and-done. Everybody starts out with the same record – 0-0 – and you are playing until you have six wins and you are there at the state championship.
“What’s so great about it is with these girls being young, they want to give it their all. It feels like it might be their last game. If they keep doing that, we can go far.”
Rocky Mount (14-9), which will travel to No. 5 Burlington Williams on Wednesday, defeated Nash Central for the fourth time this season, but not without a fight from the No. 21 Bulldogs.
Nash Central (16-10) led by seven points after the first quarter and battled Rocky Mount even to the start of the fourth quarter.
“I don’t feel like we got outplayed (Monday),” Nash Central coach Terri Cash said. “I feel like we met them head on.”
In the fourth quarter Richardson took over – again. She answered every time Nash Central scored and helped the Gryphons maintain possession for 1:21 after two offensive rebounds and a four-point lead late in the fourth quarter, which was a far cry from the poor play in the first eight minutes.
“We were slow and sluggish starting out, both of us,” Rocky Mount coach Pam Gainey said. “... The decisions were not good ones.”
The two teams combined for 20 turnovers in the first quarter and 31 in the first half.
Richardson was effected too, failing to hit a field goal until 3:59 remained in the third quarter. She was good enough late, calling on the experience of the past four years.
“It has definitely helped me grow into the player I am today,” Richardson said. “... It has been a roller coaster, but I’m glad I went through this roller coaster with Pam.”
No. 12 Rocky Mount High 44
No. 21 Nash Central 36
NC 11 6 10 9 – 36
RMH 4 15 8 17 – 44
NC: Ni’Ya Styles (8 points); Michaela Nelms (8 points); Myia Spivey (8 points); Kathryn Wilkins (6 points); Alexia Jones (2 points); Krystal Atkinson (2 points); Maeandra Collins (2 points).
RMH: Carmen Richardson (16 points); Takeyra Thomas (10 points); Tamara Harper (9 points); Keyanna Spivey (6 points); Destini Parker (3 points).
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org