BAILEY – At times this season, Northern Nash has driven coach Rick Ruffin, crazy with its shot selection and lack of awareness. But at other times, the Knights have surprised even him at the promise they have shown.
He saw plenty of both Friday night at Southern Nash, but the final result was something neither Ruffin nor the Knights have seen since Feb. 9, 2011: A Big East Conference victory.
Northern Nash built a 18-point lead in the third quarter but had to survive a Southern Nash barrage, eventually holding on for a 48-42 victory.
“We have three guys that returned from last year’s team, so even though we have some guys that are juniors and seniors, we don’t have a lot of varsity experience,” Ruffin said. “It’s hard to believe how we’ve looked for a while, then again how we’ve looked for another while.”
The Knights (5-7, 1-1) showed the same two-faced ways Friday, but they earned the victory this time. Darryl Prunty (14 points) and Kendrick Richardson (8 points) were excellent in the first half and early portion of the third quarter, and as a result, the Knights consistently were obtaining quality shots.
Northern Nash harassed Southern Nash (2-11, 1-1) with its length, forcing the Firebirds into turnover after turnover and dictating the game’s tempo.
But after the Knights took an 18-point lead, Southern Nash awoke. The Firebirds continued to chip away as Richardson fouled out with 5:18 remaining when the game became a contest once again. The Firebirds quickly went on a 7-0 run, then cut the lead to four after a missed free throw with 23 seconds remaining.
On the following possession, though, the Firebirds threw away the ball and sealed their fate.
“You just can’t continuously turn the ball over in critical situations,” Southern Nash coach Robbie Kennedy said. “If you dig yourself such a big hole, you pretty much gotta play perfect after that. We had too many mistakes.”
The Knights certainly were happy with the victory, but Ruffin said they still have a lot to learn.
“I just thought we kind of lost our composure and poise in the second half,” Ruffin said. “I told them that it’s January and it’s time to grow up. We have to do a better job understanding late-game situations, and I’ll take the blame for that.”
Northern Nash 60 Southern Nash 37
In a contest that was expected to be lopsided, the unbeaten Knights found themselves ahead by only four points at halftime.
The drama was short-lived. Northern Nash opened the second half on a 21-2 run to bury Southern Nash, 60-37, on Friday at Southern Nash High School.
Northern Nash (12-0, 2-0 Big East Conference) stayed atop the league with big second halves from two key players. Alexus Hill scored 10 of her game-high 13 points after halftime, while Kadijrah Richardson scored all 12 of her points in the final two quarters.
Khadijah Manning scored 11 points to lead Southern Nash (4-9, 0-2).
“We just didn’t hit our shots in the first half, so we told the girls to be patient,” Northern Nash coach Grover Battle said. “We’ve been off for a week and haven’t had a lot of practice time ... Once the kids got into the game, we were fine.”
Northern Nash 48
Southern Nash 42
NN 13 16 8 11 – 48
SN 11 7 8 16 – 42
NN: Darryl Prunty (14 points); Kendrick Richardson (8 points); Kyree Clark, Isaiah Alston (6 points); Donte McNeil, Isacc Dupree (5 points); Jeremy Freeman (4 points).
SN: Desmon Jackson (15 points); Aaron Ware (6 points); Chi-Ali Bunn, Deon Lavender (5 points); Tahj Deans, Richard Hall (4 points); Marques Wright (2 points); Rashid Campbell (1 point).
Northern Nash 60
Southern Nash 37
NN 9 11 23 17 – 60
SN 7 9 5 16 – 37
NN: Alexus Hill (13 points); Kadijrah Richardson (12 points); Quinesha Lynch (8 points); Deja Lewis (6 points); Shakyia Mercer (5 points); Jordan Oldham, Suzie Sykes (4 points); Alexia Hines, Camille Branch (3 points); Kayla Tucker (1 point).
SN: Khadijah Manning (11 points); Destiny Burgess, Danyelle Noland, Tyreka Nicholson (7 points); Kadijah Kale, Dasia Moore (2 points); Deja Jeter (1 point).
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz@ rmtelegram.com