With his left index finger, Rocky Mount High coach Mike Gainey pointed to the wall in the Gryphons’ new gym Friday night.
With everything Rocky Mount has done in the past three years, including two state championships, Gainey knew exactly where success has to start.
Against Nash Central, success this year started with an emphatic early statement – a 81-37 victory.
“We have to worry about those five names up there first,” Gainey said as he pointed to the banners of the Gryphons’ five Big East Conference opponents. “Before we look to any type of playoffs or regionals, state and all that, we have to handle this right here.”
Nash Central (6-4, 0-1 Big East) finished second in the conference last year behind Rocky Mount High (12-1, 1-0), which went undefeated in 10 games.
The Bulldogs were the only other team with a winning record within the conference. The Gryphons made pretty quick work of their closest competitor from a year ago.
Eleven different players scored at least one basket, and nine players scored at least six points for Rocky Mount. From the start, Nash Central struggled as much as Rocky Mount excelled.
“Nothing went right for us,” Nash Central coach Renny Taylor said. “They played hard, harder than we did. We just didn’t play as well as we’re capable of doing.”
The Gryphons scored the final 11 points of the first quarter and the first eight of the second quarter. A 9-0 run closed the first half just a few minutes before a 14-0 surge started the second.
Gainey pulled his starters in the third quarter, but then put them back in the game to start the fourth quarter. Rocky Mount High scored eight unanswered before he removed his starting five for good.
“We are looking and working and finding out that each kid can help us in different positions,” Gainey said. “I think we’re fine right where we are.”
Rocky Mount High 64 Nash Central 47
For the past two years at the old gym, Rocky Mount High did nothing but win when a Big East Conference opponent came to play.
The Gryphons’ tenure at the old school finished with eight straight wins and an undefeated record for two years at home. Rocky Mount opened the conference schedule at the new school the same way, even if it felt a little different.
“Every now and then, one of the old girls will make mention of the old gym,” Rocky Mount coach Pam Gainey said. “We have to make this gym our home. We have to do some new things.”
It took a little time – nearly a quarter to be exact – but Rocky Mount (9-4, 1-0) eventually figured out Nash Central (7-3, 0-1).
“I hope that we are getting ready to turn a corner just in how hard we play and the effort and kind of starting to gel a little bit,” Bulldogs coach Terri Cash said.
This was exactly the start Rocky Mount High wanted.
“This is the beginning of our journey,” said Gryphons’ forward J’Kyra Brown, who scored a game-high 21 points. “This is where all the tough games begin. We just wanted to come out and send a message.”
BOYS Rocky Mount High 81 Nash Central 37 NC 8 6 11 12 – 37 RMH 20 19 25 17 – 81 NC: Nathaniel Pittman (10 points); Daniel Pittman (9 points); Wendell Hunter (6 points); LJ Porcher (6 points); Cole Smith (4 points); Tyreeq Harrison (2 points). RMH: Dante Battle (16 points); M.J. Gainey (15 points); Michael Hines (8 points); Jaquell Bryant (8 points); Kenaz Cooper (7 points); Mason Hines (6 points); Jaequez Jones (6 points); Austin Warner (6 points); Immanuel King (4 points); Broderick Caudle (3 points); Tony Batts (2 points).
GIRLS Rocky Mount High 64 Nash Central 47 NC 16 10 7 14 – 47 RMH 16 16 11 21 – 64 NC: Timyra Staton (20 points); Ni’Ya Styles (16 points); Jalynn Westry (7 points); Kiana Thompson (4 points). RMH: J’Kyra Brown (21 points); Carmen Richardson (19 points); Kelsey Daniels (14 points); Destini Parker (6 points); Kyler Daniels (3 points); Cureshia Murphy (1 point).
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or jhite@ rmtelegram.com