Rocky Mount's Immanuel King jumps for a basket during Friday night's game against Greenville Rose at Rocky Mount High School.

Telegram photo / Hannah Potes

Rocky Mount's Immanuel King jumps for a basket during Friday night's game against Greenville Rose at Rocky Mount High School.

Nash County Christmas Tournament set to begin

By Justin Hite

Sports Writer

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While this month might be the time for people to cherish their blessings, this week is a time for a handful of the Big East Conference basketball coaches to take stock of what they have – and also what they don’t.

Action in the Nash County Christmas Tournament begins at 5 tonight at Northern Nash High School.

While it’s not the official end of the nonconference season – a few teams play non-league games after the New Year – it does serve as a midpoint of the schedule, when coaches can re-evaluate their teams against squads they’ll play during the conference season.

“Around the Christmas break, you want to make sure there are certain things in and you want to see how they work – what you need to tweak, what you need to add or what you need to do away with,” Rocky Mount High girls’ coach Pam Gainey said.

Play continues until Thursday, when the girls’ championship (6:30 p.m.) and the boys’ championship (8 p.m.) will be decided.

“It’s preparation for our conference,” Northern Nash coach Grover Battle, who has had to do a little extra work with his school playing host to the tournament, which rotates between the four Nash County public high schools. “It gives us some solid teams to play and find out where we are for the upcoming conference season.”

Other coaches agreed with Battle.

Nash Central girls’ coach Terri Cash said the Nash County Christmas Tournament is a perfect time to grade her team against the Big East Conference, especially for when the games matter a little more. Still, the early matchups can rattle some teams, as well.

“Any time you play Rocky Mount, Southern Nash or Northern, there’s so much emotion to it,” Cash said. “Sometimes, whatever happens in that game can affect the girls and make them think it can determine the outcome in conference, when it doesn’t.”

Because of this and some teams playing each other many times during the year, Rocky Mount High boys’ coach Mike Gainey said there has been some talk of adding new teams to the mix or changing up the format in some way.

Other coaches agreed, focusing on the extensive number of games played between the schools.

In each of the past two years, the Northern Nash girls’ team played the Rocky Mount High girls’ team five times. The Knights were knocked out of the playoffs twice by the Gryphons, including last year when the team lost just five games all year – all to Rocky Mount.

Still, it is an event that Mike Gainey said brings the community together during the holiday season.

“It’s something that gives the community a chance to come out and have something to do during the Christmas time,” Mike Gainey said.