Almost like he had been there before, Isaiah Alston settled into a corner of the court at Northern Nash High School and knocked down a three-pointer.
He picked out another corner and another three points followed. Alston, who transferred to Rocky Mount High from Northern Nash this season, hit from all four corners, just like he had in the past and led the Gryphons’ to a 69-57 victory in the Nash County Christmas Tournament semifinals.
“It felt weird,” said Alston, who played at his former school for the first time as an opponent.
Alston heard from the crowd, who told him he still was welcome at the school, but he said he put the comments out of his mind. Alston scored a game-high 20 points, but it was what happened when he missed that allowed Rocky Mount (6-2) to cruise to an easy victory.
“We knew that when we missed, they were going to get the rebound, so we weren’t even worried about that,” Nash Central coach Renny Taylor said. “What we were hoping was when they missed, (we’d grab the rebound).”
The Gryphons recently started using a three-forward lineup – utilizing an obvious size advantage by starting three players taller than 6-foot-5.
The tactic, which along with the zone defense the Gryphons ran is new territory to coach Mike Gainey, helped wear down Nash Central (2-6).
“I’ve never sat in a zone this much in my whole life, but when you’ve got this type of luxury, you’ve got to use it to the best of your ability,” Gainey said of his frontcourt length. “... This is foreign territory to me. We’re going to try to make it happen before we start conference.”
Forward Dante Battle added 14 points, and Jaquell Bryant scored 11. Center Immanuel King scored six points in the first half but paved the way inside, giving room for Alston.
“When we go with all three bigs, we can get more rebounds,” King said. “When they collapse on us, we’ve got shooters who can shoot. But our main thing is defense. When all three of us are on that back line, it’s kind of hard to stop.”
Daniel Pittman led Nash Central with 18 points.
Rocky Mount will play Southern Nash at 8 tonight for the championship, while Nash Central faces Northern Nash at 5 p.m. in the consolation game.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or email@example.com