As leaders of their teams and arguably the two best girls’ basketball players in the Twin Counties, Northern Nash’s Alexus Hill and Rocky Mount High’s Carmen Richardson looked comfortable in their environment Saturday afternoon.
The seniors have been through handfuls of rivalry games between the schools, and with a rare Saturday matchup inside Rocky Mount High’s gymnasium, the Knights and Gryphons were not only the game in town, but the only game in town.
Hill and Richardson both picked their spots and scored with ease, but it was the collective group of Knights who made the difference in Northern Nash’s 58-40 victory on Saturday in the first Big East Conference game for both teams in more than a week.
Hill finished with 25 points and Richardson had a game-high 30, but Northern Nash (16-1, 4-0) put an early stranglehold on Rocky Mount and did not waver.
“A lot of people stepped up, and we saw who the best player in the conference was,” Northern Nash coach Grover Battle said. “We looked pretty good. We have one senior and a couple of other girls who understand what it means to be ready. I thought they did an outstanding job.”
Northern Nash never trailed in the contest and led, 19-5, after the first quarter in which it quickly figured out Rocky Mount’s 2-3 zone defense.
Richardson kept Rocky Mount within striking distance for much of the contest, but the Gryphons (9-5, 3-1) never drew closer than nine points.
Only two other Gryphons scored. Tamara Harper and Keyanna Spivey each had five points.
“Carmen is Carmen,” said Hill, who is a friend with and former AAU teammate of Richardson. “She is going to get hers. We just had to stop everyone from getting theirs because she can’t do it by herself.”
Rocky Mount coach Pam Gainey said her team’s play was uneven, especially defensively.
Northern Nash went through a stretch midway through the fourth quarter where layups were the norm.
“In order to beat a good team, you have to do things well often,” Gainey said. “We did some good things in between. We weren’t solid long enough defensively to make a difference.”
Gainey admitted the magnitude of the event might have rattled her three starting freshmen early.
Hill knew her teammates might be feeling the same way, so after shooting around on their own Friday, she gave them a quick pep talk.
“I told them, ‘You have to be ready, and do what you have been doing,’ Hill said. “It’s a good group of girls. I love showing them, this is what you have to work for. They are all my little sisters. I’m going to push them to the point where you probably want to punch me in the face, but this is where you need to be.”
Jessie H. Nunery can be reached at 407-9959 or firstname.lastname@example.org