Midway through the third quarter, Rocky Mount High guard Brod Caudle drove to the basket on one of the Gryphons’ many fast-break opportunities.
He peered over his shoulder and saw his trailing teammate. With his left hand, he lobbed the ball off the backboard, and with two hands, Immanuel King threw down a forceful dunk – starting a run of 15 unanswered points of the Gryphons.
Rocky Mount made just as loud of a statement with a 80-52 victory at Rocky Mount High School on Monday.
While the gap between the top of the Big East Conference and the rest of the league is narrower than it has been in recent history, there still is a gap.
“It looks kind of scary. It looks pretty good right now,” Rocky Mount coach Mike Gainey said. “... Everybody is clicking.”
After a tight first quarter, Rocky Mount (13-7, 7-2 Big East) took control behind high-pressure defense and a dominant interior attack. The Gryphons, who pulled down 33 offensive rebounds and 62 total, needed just one jump shot to outscore Southern Nash, 54-14, in the second and third quarters.
“I don’t know what happened,” Southern Nash coach Robbie Kennedy said. “I hope this was just one of those games where we don’t play well.”
Southern Nash (9-12, 5-3), which has held five teams to 50 or fewer total points, turned over the ball and stopped utilizing its drive-and-kick offense, which was disrupted by the Gryphons high-pressure, front-court defense.
“We’ve got all the pieces of the puzzle right now,” said King, who teamed with Dante Battle to pull down 35 combined rebounds and 18 on the offensive end.
Rocky Mount clinched the No. 2 seed, and Kennedy said he expects to face the Gryphons again in next week’s Big East Conference Tournament.
Rocky Mount High 63 Southern Nash 36
When Pam Gainey was a junior in high school, she didn’t even average two points but eventually played at East Carolina. She did it based on her work ethic, and this year, her work ethic has put her ahead again.
“To me, she (has) outworked a lot of us, and you can feel it in the way her kids played at the beginning of the year versus the way they’re playing now,” Southern Nash coach Wayne Bryant said.
Rocky Mount (13-6, 7-2), which usually starts three freshman and has two sophomores and another freshman in its main rotation, opened the game with a 9-2 run, the second quarter with an 8-1 spurt and the third quarter with 12 unanswered.
“We talk so much about being prepared that they’ll be focused on the beginning of the game,” Gainey said. “We want them focusing on the entire game.”
Rocky Mount High 80
Southern Nash 52
SN 15 7 7 23 – 52
RMH 16 30 24 10 – 80
SN: Tahj Deans (14 points); Richard Hall (8 points); Bryan Vines (6 points); Aaron Newkirk (6 points); Marquise Wright (5 points); Emmanual Merriweather (5 points); Leon Oates (4 points); Orlando Turner (2 points); Josh Raynor (2 points). RMH: Dante Battle (24 points); Isaiah Alston (17 points); Immanuel King (12 points); Thomas Cooper (4 points); Kenaz Cooper (4 points); Jaquell Bryant (4 points); Brod Caudle (4 points); Blake Helms (3 points); Jaquez Jones (2 points); Robert Miller (1 point).
Rocky Mount High 63
Southern Nash 36
SN 8 10 4 14 – 36
RMH 11 17 16 19 – 63
SN: Danyelle Noland (9 points); Tyreka Nicholson (9 points); Destiny Burgess (8 points); Khadijah Kale (8 points); Lauren Wells (2 points).
RMH: Carmen Richardson (16 points); Michelle Gainey (14 points); Tamara Harper (10 points); Tiara Hinton (6 points); Keyanna Spivey (5 points); Takeyra Thomas (4 points); Ashley Hatfield (3 points); Destini Parker (2 points); Raiche Deloach (2 points); Shelby Meeks (1 point).
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or email@example.com