Standing on the free-throw line with four seconds remaining, Northern Nash forward D.J. Prunty remembered last year, and all the struggles.
Needing just one free throw to put the Knights ahead by three points, and basically guarantee overtime, Prunty knocked down the first shot.
After waiting nearly two years between conference victories, Northern Nash had to wait just two games before it won another, 58-55, after Wilson Fike’s last-second shot missed.
“Our team wants to win games this year,” Prunty said. “The whole team feels that way, and the coaches do, too. ... Last year, we weren’t really going for it as much.”
Playing without two key rotation players who were suspended for disciplinary reason, Northern Nash (6-8, 2-2) raced out to an early lead.
By the end of the third quarter, the Knights led Wilson Fike (4-9, 1-3) by 14 points.
With just two seniors on the roster, the Knights showed their inexperience as the Golden Demons pulled within one point with 1:15 to play.
Forward Isaiah Alston knocked down a pair of free throws and then locked down Wilson Fike’s top 3-point shooter in the final seconds, forcing the Demons to go elsewhere. Prunty, who finished with a team-high 20 points, grabbed the Demons’ last miss and walked to the line with four seconds to play.
“The team we have this year, we have goals set,” Ruffin said. “One of them is to make the playoffs. Right now, we’re in the thick of things. We are very capable of doing that.
“There are some really good teams, and there’s going to be a fight for those spots. Right now, we’re in the fight.”
Northern Nash 72, Wilson Fike 51
Ahead by more than 20 points midway through the third quarter, Northern Nash lost its focus, and coach Grover Battle was still happy.
Not for the Knights’ poor play but the reason for it. The Knights were able to play the majority of their roster.
“We’re getting the opportunity to grow and gain experience with all our young ladies, and it’s going to pay off in the end,” Battle said.
Northern Nash (14-0, 4-0 Big East) scored the first 11 points of the game, and after Wilson Fike (10-2, 2-1) scored its first basket, the Knights scored seven more points. From there, Northern Nash never led by fewer than 10 points.
“Me, myself and all the other bigs have just been pushing really hard in practice, jumping high and finishing what we should be finishing,” forward Camille Branch said.
Branch finished with a team-high 15 points and led four players in double figures.
Northern Nash 58
Wilson Fike 55
WF 13 14 8 20 – 55
NN 23 10 16 9 – 58
WF: Trevon Virgil (20 points); D.J. Daniels (10 points); Sam Ellis (8 points); T.J. Harris (7 points); Anthony Evans (6 points); Brandon Gray (2 points); Jeremy Phillips (2 points).
NN: D.J. Prunty (20 points); Isaiah Alston (16 points); Isaac Dupree (7 points); Marcellus Major (6 points); Donte’ McNeil (5 points); Jeremy Freeman (2 points); Tyler Brantley (2 points).
Northern Nash 72
Wilson Fike 51
WF 8 15 10 18 – 51
NN 24 17 12 19 – 72
WF: E.J. Proctor (15 points); Jameka Ruffin (13 points); Shatera Black (12 points); Miya Mitchell (7 points); Briyonna Hunter (2 points); Alexis Spells (1 point); Alexia Evans (1 point).
NN: Camille Branch (15 points); Quinesha Lynch (14 points); Khadijrah Richardson (10 points); Deja Lewis (10 points); Alexus Hill (9 points); Jordan Oldham (8 points); Shakyia Mercer (3 points); Suzie Sykes (2 points); Kayla Tucker (1 point).