For three quarters, Southern Nash created the slow, measured pace it wanted against Nash Central.
With one quick run, though, everything changed. The Bulldogs hit a few jumpers, created a faster tempo and survived the Ladybirds, 47-42, in the consolation game of the Nash County Christmas Tournament on Wednesday at Northern Nash High School.
“It worked until the end,” Southern Nash coach Wayne Bryant said. “Our bench is not as long. (Nash Central) stayed focused until the end, and they made a run, and we couldn’t come back from it.”
Southern Nash (5-7) held the Bulldogs to six points in the first quarter. Nash Central (7-2) made an 11-0 run in the second to take the lead only to go cold at the end of the quarter as Southern Nash took a 20-19 lead into halftime.
The crawling pace continued into the third quarter. Nash Central, a team with many offensive weapons, kept quiet and Southern Nash took a one-point lead.
Bryant used to coach alongside Nash Central coach Terri Cash, who said she expected the slew of defenses the Bulldogs saw.
“I do think that Coach Bryant and I, since we coached together, he threw a lot of junk defenses at me that you aren’t accustomed to seeing, but that’s not anything I don’t expect,” Cash said. “I know what he likes to do.”
Nash Central was able to create a faster game in part to a press Cash called in the fourth quarter, and after a few traded buckets, Nash Central made the run that decided the game. Kathryn Wilkins hit a lay-up, Ni’Ya Styles scored six straight points and Deztanie Hill made a mid-range jumper, a 10-0 run that gave Nash Central all the cushion it needed.
“Our attitudes changed. We played as a team and came together and got a win,” Styles said. “Our shots weren’t falling but we stuck in it. We did what we had to do to get a win.”
Styles led all scorers with 17 points, while Williams and Krystal Atkinson both added 10 for Nash Central.
Tyreka Nicholson led Southern Nash with 14 points.
The Bulldogs, after being badly outrebounded Tuesday against Rocky Mount High, scored two key fourth quarter baskets after offensive rebounds, though Cash said that area still needs work.
“It still wasn’t as good as I want it to be,” Cash said. “In crucial moments, I didn’t feel like we boxed out like we should have. I’m not going to say we were better than (Tuesday), the outcome was just better.”
Bryant said he thought Northern Nash was clearly above the rest of the Big East Conference at this stage of the season, but judging by Southern Nash’s close game with Nash Central and Nash Central’s close game with Rocky Mount, he said there is room for mobility.
“Who knows?” Bryant said. “If I can get two or three more (players) to come along, I can boost my standings in the conference.”
Cash said that the Bulldogs’ two tournament games showed that her team has work to do.
“We have a long way to go,” she said. “There’s a lot of room for improvement, so we just need to focus on those areas so we’re ready for conference.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or firstname.lastname@example.org