Rocky Mount High School junior Kenaz Cooper takes a shot during Tuesday night's game at Rocky Mount High School.

Telegram photo / Hannah Potes

Rocky Mount High School junior Kenaz Cooper takes a shot during Tuesday night's game at Rocky Mount High School.

Hoops squads set to return to action

By Justin Hite

Sports Writer

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With Big East Conference play beginning so quickly after the holiday break, Northern Nash coach Rick Ruffin hadn’t always scheduled an extra tournament.

Last season, he didn’t and wished he had.

“We had too much time off,” Ruffin said.

This season, the Knights were back in a second tournament during the team’s time off from school.

He said he’ll decide next year whether that was a good decision.

Ruffin, whose team split a pair of games in Bunn, was far from the only coach to schedule a holiday tournament, something that he hopes will keep his team fresh with the more important games coming soon. Big East Conference play begins next Friday.

“I just wanted to kind of do it this way,” Ruffin said. “I think the kids like playing and having a day or two off and playing again. ... I guess time will tell.”

A full schedule of games will be played tonight as Northern Nash, Nash Central, Rocky Mount Prep and Rocky Mount Academy will all play host to action. North Edgecombe and SouthWest Edgecombe also are in action within the Twin Counties.

Ruffin hopes that playing during the break will help his team stay sharp and focused moving forward.

Rocky Mount High coach Mike Gainey, who routinely schedules multiple tournaments during the break, hopes his team can learn from its mistakes during the
holiday tournaments.

“It taught us a lot,” Gainey said. “It taught us we need to get in here and get some work done.”

Gainey, who was matter-of-fact in his support of playing during the break, brought his team in during the mornings for practice in order to keep them focused during what can be a forgetful holiday season.

“Everybody gets the Christmas fever and wants to drink the egg nog and get the cookies,” said Gainey, whose team played in Wendell at Corinth-Holders High School.

Rocky Mount Prep has used the time to put in extra work on the fundamentals. Coach Don Reams, who led the Jaguars to the school’s first state championship appearance last year, said the emphasis has been on shooting and rebounding during the break.

Rocky Mount Prep, which has a chance to win the first conference title in school history regardless of sport, played in multiple tournaments during the break.

“It breaks up the monotony of not practicing all the time and gives them a chance to just play,” Reams said.

Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or