Northern Nash’s opponent for tonight’s NCHSAA 3-A state playoffs game might be the toughest-minded squad the Knights have faced all season.
Tenth-seeded Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons, which will visit No. 2 Northern Nash at 7 tonight for a third round matchup, has taken the tough road to continue its quest for a berth in the regional rounds in Fayetteville.
The Crusaders (21-3) have overcome late deficits in each of their playoffs victories.
In the first round, Cardinal Gibbons erased a nine-point lead with 3:30 remaining to knock off Eastern Guilford, 60-56.
In Wednesday’s second round, the Crusaders hit a go-ahead layup with nine seconds remaining to edge Eastern Wayne, 50-49.
Cardinal Gibbons finished as runner-up in the Big Eight Conference regular season and tournament to undefeated Chapel Hill, the No. 1 seed in the 3-A East bracket.
The Knights’ road to their fourth consecutive sectional finals apperance has been smoother. They eased past Wilson Fike on Monday, and in the second round against Eastern Alamance, led by as many as 15 points in the second quarter.
The lead was trimmed to as small as five in the final quarter, but Northern Nash (25-1) boosted its advantage to double digits during the game’s last two minutes.
It was a balanced effort for the Knights, who will need more of the same this evening.
Cardinal Gibbons had each of its starting five players score in double figures in its first-round victory.
“It felt good to see that we have people all around that can score,” Knights senior Alexus Hill said. “Most teams have this person or that person, but we have 13 girls.”
Coach Pam Gainey’s Rocky Mount High Gryphons will take a two-hour drive to Cameron Union Pines for a 7 p.m. game.
Rocky Mount (18-9), the No. 12 seed, earned a 45-40 victory at Burlington Williams. The Gryphons are attempting to reach the regional round for the second consecutive season.
Union Pines (23-4) is the No. 4 seed, and it seeks its third regional trip in the past five seasons.
Jessie H. Nunery can be reached at 407-9959 or firstname.lastname@example.org