With his usual running mate and fellow big man on the bench with foul trouble and general ineffectiveness, Immanuel King took his coach’s halftime words to heart.
Rocky Mount High coach Mike Gainey told King to attack the basket more Thursday night and pressed the Gryphons, who were trying to avoid a historic losing skid, to play with more strength.
King opted to accomplish both at Rocky Mount High School.
Finishing with a career-high 29 points, 20 rebounds and five blocks, King powered Rocky Mount to an 80-70 victory against Wilson Fike, avoiding back-to-back Big East Conference home losses for the first time in school history under the current make-up.
“Coach always tells us that it’s the little thing that you do,” King said. “I feel like if a shot goes up, one of my little things is to go attack it and get the rebound.”
Leading scorer Dante Battle didn’t play a minute in the second half, leaving a hole that King filled with those “little things.”
King finished with eight offensive rebounds, each of which turned into two points, and he scored 21 points in the second half after heeding his coach’s request.
“He stepped up when other folks didn’t step up to play,” Gainey said. “He came to work and took it on his back.”
King lurked in the paint for much of the game and at times appeared to grab – or tip-in – every missed shot.
“He can tap the ball in with left, right, whatever hand. I don’t know how many hands he has,” Gainey said with a laugh. “He always has a tendency to have his hand on the ball, and that’s what we need. He took it upon himself to handle it (Thursday), and he was real strong.”
Rebounding comes naturally for King, because he expects his teammates and his opponents to miss – not out of spite but out of preparation. That expectation sparked the Gryphons (11-7, 5-2 Big East) in the second half.
Rocky Mount switched to a flat-and-one zone of sorts, which Gainey said was “just ugly” in the second half. It worked. The Gryphons held Wilson Fike’s leading scorer Trevon Virgil to just five points in the second half after he scored 14 in the first.
The Gryphons also corrected their wrongs from two nights ago. Plagued by turnovers and missed free throws in a loss to Wilson Hunt, Rocky Mount turned over the ball just five times in the second half Thursday and knocked down seven free throws in the final 41 seconds to preserve the win.
Rocky Mount High 71 Wilson Fike 47
Behind an aggressive defense that forced five turnovers on Wilson Fike’s first six possessions, Rocky Mount scored the first 12 points of the game and never looked back, leading by 10 for the rest of the contest.
“We absolutely have to (play aggressive defense early),” Rocky Mount coach Pam Gainey said. “It’s either that or play in a half-court set. Defense, that’s my favorite part of the game. I told the girls (Thursday), ‘You’ve got to play defense like your life depends on it.’”
Seven different players scored in the first quarter for Rocky Mount (10-6, 4-2). Carmen Richardson scored 12 of her team-high 24 points in the first.
“The main thing is these games take not only physical preparation but also mental preparation,” Gainey said.
Rocky Mount High 71
Wilson Fike 47
WF 10 14 11 12–47
RMH 25 11 15 20–71
WF: EJ Proctor (24 points); Dajah Horne (9 points); Rebekah Langley (8 points); Alexia Evans (4 points); Elery Williams (2 points).
RMH: Carmen Richardson (24 points); Tamara Harper (15 points); Keyanna Spivey (9 points); Michelle Gainey (8 points); Takeyra Thomas (6 points); Ashley Hatfield (4 points); Shelby Meeks (3 points); Raiche Deloach (2 points).
Rocky Mount High 80
Wilson Fike 70
WF 12 19 14 25–70
RMH 14 13 25 28–80
WF: MyQuan Gooding (23 points); Trevon Virgil (19 points); Anthony Evans (10 points); Brandon Monk (5 points); A.J. Hines (5 points); Jeremy Phillips (5 points); D.J. Daniels (3 points).
RMH: Immanuel King (29 points); Isaiah Alston (23 points); Brod Caudle (12 points); Jaquell Bryant (6 points); Dante Battle (4 points); Thomas Cooper (3 points); Jaquez Jones (2 points); Kenaz Cooper (1 point).
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or email@example.com